Working in Cold Weather
Employers and contractors need to be aware of steps to take to protect the safety and health of employees who must work outdoors in the cold weather.
When workers are unexpectedly assigned to outdoor jobs in extremely cold weather, the employer or contractor is expected to:
- Provide appropriate clothing, such as good hand and footwear, as well as face and head protection, or
- Allow the workers to obtain suitable clothing before starting the task.
- Provide a heated warm-up shelter at the workplace where the workers can get indoors and out of the cold weather.
Know the risks of working in cold weather
Working outdoors in cold weather places workers at risk of losing body heat. Fingers and toes are the first to get cold and then shivering sets in – a distraction that could result in an incident. Exposed skin increases the risk of frostbite.
Workers are encouraged to wear several layers of clothing, rather than one heavy layer, to prevent overheating and sweating. Sweating should be avoided to minimize the body’s heat loss, which may require removing clothing layer(s).
For the body:
- Inner layer: light-weight polyester or polypropylene
- Insulating layer: fleece or wool
- Outer layer: rain, snow, and wind repellent with provisions for ventilation
For the feet:
- Felt-lined, rubber-bottomed, leather-topped boots with removable insoles and socks
Plan for work warm-up breaks
Warm-up breaks for workers should begin when the temperature reaches -26 C (-15 F), with winds of 16 km/h (10 mph) or greater, and should be scheduled in addition to normal breaks every two hours. Once the temperature reaches -43 C (-45 F), all non-emergency work should stop.
For more information about the work warm-up schedule, including the number of warm-up breaks required for working in cold weather conditions, visit our guide for Working in Cold Conditions.