In this issue Working in cold weather
Winter 2015
Working in cold weather
In this issue
Working in cold
weather........................ 1
Cold weather
safety tips ................... 2
Shift work: getting
enough sleep and
physical activity .......... 2
Carbon monoxide at
the worksite ................ 3
Risk management
in winter conditions.... 6
Contact ........................ 6
Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
Many farms are operational yearround, which means workers are
exposed to all weather conditions
that Alberta has to offer. These
temperatures include the hazardous
implications of extremely cold
temperatures and bone-chilling wind.
A cold environment challenges
the worker in three ways: by air
temperature measured in degrees
Celsius (°C); air movement (wind
speed), measured in metres per
second (m/s), kilometres per hour
(km/h) or miles per hour (mph);
and humidity. In order to work
safely, these challenges have to
be counterbalanced by proper
insulation (layered protective
clothing), physical activity and
controlled exposure to cold (work/
rest schedule).
What is wind-chill temperature?
At any temperature, you feel colder
as the wind speed increases. The
combined effect of cold air and wind
speed is expressed as “equivalent
chill temperature” (ECT) or simply
“wind chill” temperature in degrees
Celsius. It is essentially the air
temperature that would feel the same
on exposed human flesh as the given
combination of air temperature
and wind speed. It can be used as
a general guideline for deciding
clothing requirements and the
possible health effects of cold.
In some parts of Canada the term
“wind chill factor” is used. This is
a measurement of a heat loss rate
caused by exposure to wind and it is
expressed as the rate of energy loss
per unit area of exposed skin per
What can be done to help prevent
the adverse effects of cold?
For continuous work in temperatures
below the freezing point, heated
Workers should dress according to
temperature and wind chill factors
when working outside in the winter.
Continued on page 3
safety tips
 Plan to take lots of breaks depending
on the severity of the weather you
are working in. Consider this guide:
 One work break per four-hour
period for temperatures down to
-28°C with up to 8 km/h wind.
 Two to three work breaks per
four-hour period for temperatures
between -29°C and -31°C and
wind up to 16 km/h.
 Three to four work breaks per
four-hour period for temperatures
between -32°C and -34°C and
wind up to 16 km/h.
 Four to five work breaks per
four-hour period for temperatures
between -35°C and -37°C and
wind up to 16 km/h.
 Non-emergency work should
cease for temperatures lower than
 Keep your body nourished and
hydrated during cold weather work.
This will increase your body’s ability
to respond to extreme temperatures
and combat fatigue.
 Monitor for severe winter weather
in your area through Environment
Canada or one of the many
applications available on smart
phones and tablets.
 Stockpile emergency materials.
Have a standby electric generator in
case of a power outage, and keep
a supply of sandbags, a shovel and
road salt or ice melt available.
 Develop an emergency plan for
water and feed resources. Obtain
emergency supplies of forage and
grain, identify emergency resources
for water and have a list of suppliers,
truckers and people that can help in
case of an emergency.
Shift work: getting enough
sleep and physical activity
Workers doing physically demanding
jobs need to have the balance, energy
and strength to work safely.
This article suggests ways to get
enough sleep and physical activity to
help you feel at your best throughout
your busy shift schedule.
Shift work in Canada
About 25 per cent of workers in
Canada do rotational shift
work. Shift workers
don’t work from
“nine to five”
on weekdays.
These workers
rotate between
day and night
shifts or may
only work nights.
Some people
work 12-hour shifts
rather than an eight-hour work day.
Many people enjoy shift work, as it
allows them longer periods of time
off to be with their families or to
pursue other interests.
For others, shift work is just
part of their job. For example,
shift workers often do critical work
in hospitals, policing, emergency
response, farming, and the oil and
gas industry (to name a few areas).
In these settings, round-the-clock
service (24/7) is needed.
In some cases, if life gets out
of balance, shift work can affect
workers’ health and safety.
Sleep and shift work
Most shift workers don’t get enough
sleep. They often work when other
people sleep and sleep when the rest
of the world is awake.
The human body has a 24-hour
cycle of wakefulness and sleepiness
regulated by an internal clock. This
cycle means that we are naturally
wakeful in the morning when it gets
light and naturally sleepy when it
gets dark at night.
When you’re tired because you
didn’t get enough sleep, you may
think and move slowly, make
more mistakes and have difficulty
remembering things. So, getting a
good sleep is important for safety
and other reasons.
Getting more physical activity
and eating
right can be a
good strategy
for getting a
better sleep.
The National
Sleep Foundation
has lots of helpful
tips for staying alert on the job and
for sleeping. Here are some of their
• Try to exercise during breaks.
• Talk with co-workers while you
• Try to work with a “buddy.”
• Take short breaks throughout your
shift to use the employee lounge,
take a walk, shoot hoops in the
parking lot or climb stairs.
• Try to eat three normal meals per
day. Eat healthy snacks, avoiding
foods that may upset your stomach.
• If you consume caffeine (coffee,
tea, soda, energy drinks, gum,
mints), do so early in the shift,
such as before 3 a.m. for the night
• Don’t leave the most tedious or
boring tasks to the end of your
shift when you will probably feel
the most sleepy.
Continued on page 4
Carbon monoxide at the work site
Source: Alberta Jobs, Skills, Training & Labour
Farm work often consists of many
hazards, most of which are quite
obvious. However, sometimes farm
workers are at risk of dealing with a
hazard they can’t see or smell. Such
is the case with the deadly carbon
monoxide. Unless there is a carbon
monoxide detector in every building,
the only defense is to know the
conditions that create this poisonous
gas and take measures to eliminate
Carbon monoxide is a colourless,
odourless gas. It is usually formed
from the incomplete combustion
of fuels such as coal, coke, wood,
oil and gasoline. Most of the
carbon monoxide released into the
atmosphere comes from internal
combustion engines.
Carbon monoxide is a flammable
gas. Mixtures of 12 to 75 per cent
carbon monoxide in air can catch fire
and explode when there is a source
of ignition present. Also, when
heated to high temperatures, carbon
monoxide can react violently with
oxidizing agents such as oxygen,
ozone, peroxides and chlorine.
Sources of carbon monoxide at the
work site
There are many potential sources of
carbon monoxide at the work site.
These include emissions from:
• internal combustion engines
• kilns
• furnaces and boilers
• welding
• moulding of plastics
• forging, ceramic, petroleum, steel
and waste management industries,
• space heaters and improperly
adjusted oil or gas burners
• fires and explosions
• cigarette smoking.
Ensure there is adequate ventilation for
any indoor job where carbon monoxide
is being created.
Working in cold weather continued from page 1
warming shelters such as sheds,
barns or shops should be available.
The work should be paced to avoid
excessive sweating. If such work
is necessary, proper rest periods
in a warm area should be allowed
and employees should change
into dry clothes. New employees
should be given enough time to get
acclimatized to cold and protective
clothing before assuming a full work
Equipment Design
For work below the freezing point,
metal handles and bars should
be covered by thermal insulating
material. Also, machines and tools
should be designed so that they
can be operated without having to
remove mittens or gloves.
Emergency Procedures
Procedures for providing first aid
and obtaining medical care should
be clearly outlined. For each shift,
at least one trained person should
be assigned the responsibility of
attending to emergencies.
Workers and supervisors involved
with work in cold environments
should be informed about symptoms
of adverse effect exposure to
cold, proper clothing habits, safe
work practices, physical fitness
requirements for work in cold, and
emergency procedures in case of
cold injury. While working in cold, a
buddy system should be used. Look
out for one another and be alert for
the symptoms of hypothermia.
What should I know about dressing
for working in the cold?
Protective clothing is needed for
work at or below 4°C. Clothing
should be selected to suit the
temperature, weather conditions, the
level and duration of activity, and
job design. If the work pace is too
fast or if the type and amount of
clothing are not properly selected,
excessive sweating may occur.
The clothing next to the body will
become wet and the insulation
value of the clothing will decrease
dramatically. This increases the risk
for cold injuries.
Some points to consider about
dressing for work in cold weather:
• Clothing should be worn in multiple
layers to provide better protection
than a single thick garment.
Continued on page 5
Shift work: getting enough sleep and physical activity continued from page 2
from work. For example, some people
leave early for work so they can stop
in at the YMCA, swimming pool or
recreation centre. Others stop off on
the way home.
Sometimes, employers will help
workers to be more active,
especially if they see that this
will improve their ability to
For many people, having a
Physical activity to feel better,
partner or group of friends
physically and mentally
to be active with can make a
If you do shift work, you may
big difference to whether they
benefit from physical activity
actually do it. There may be
someone else who works your
• Physical activity is refreshing
shift who would also like to
and gives you energy.
be more active and is open to
• Physical activity increases
doing something together.
A fast 30-minute walk
So, exercising before work is
outdoors every day is all you
a good idea. Finding the time
need to do to be active enough
to be physically active may be
for health benefits. Walking
difficult but is worthwhile even
with friends also allows for a
if you feel tired already. You
may have more energy after
Finding activities that you
you exercise than before!
can do with your family will
Taking an active break
benefit all of you and help you
during your shift can make you
spend time together.
less sleepy and help you focus.
Research has shown that
Often, we are more likely to
wearing a pedometer is a good
be active with someone else or
reminder to be active and
with a group of co-workers.
Whether your shift is during the day or night hours, that people who use them are
Try getting your co-workers
try to stay healthy and alert. This will reduce the risk more active than non-users.
interested in going for a walk
of injury to you and those around you.
Pedometers can be bought in
during your break rather than
drugstores and sports stores in your
heading for the cafeteria.
Companies may also offer support
(rebates, financial assistance or
Shift workers face challenges
health spending accounts) for a
Working physical activity into your
from living their lives on a different
fitness club membership, swimming
schedule than the rest of the world,
pool passes or other physical
The key to regular physical activity
but they also have time available to
is finding something you enjoy
them when others do not.
Employers are becoming more
and can fit into your day and then
By using some creativity and
aware of the link between fitness and
making it a part of your life.
determination, it’s possible to get
productivity and are more open to
In larger towns, fitness centres
enough sleep, eat in a healthy way,
helping workers exercise at work.
are now open 24/7 to allow everyone
and enjoy physical activity in your
It helps to find a convenient
to use them. Sports leagues can be
location to be active on the way to or day if you work on shift.
flexible and allow for people to play
• Exchange ideas with your
colleagues on ways to cope with the
problems of shift work.
• It’s a good idea to avoid exercising
before going to bed, because
exercise raises energy and your
body temperature. You
should exercise at least three
hours before sleeping.
late at night or even during the day
if enough people are available.
Some companies offer incentives
for workers to be more active. For
example, they may provide on-site
equipment or facilities.
Working in cold weather continued from page 3
Having several layers gives you the
option to open or remove a layer
before you get too warm and start
sweating or to add a layer when you
take a break.
• The inner layer should provide
insulation and be able to “wick”
moisture away from the skin to
help keep it dry.
• The additional layers of clothing
should provide adequate insulation
for the weather conditions. They
should also be easy to open or
remove before you get too warm to
prevent excessive sweating during
strenuous activity.
• For work in wet conditions, the
outer layer of clothing should
be waterproof. If the work area
cannot be shielded against wind,
an easily removable windbreak
garment should be used. Under
extremely cold conditions, heated
protective clothing should be made
available if the work cannot be
done on a warmer day.
• Almost 50 per cent of body heat
is lost through the head. A wool
knit cap, toque or hood can reduce
excessive heat loss.
• Clothing should be kept clean
since dirt fills air cells in fibres of
clothing and destroys its insulating
• Clothing must be dry. Moisture
should be kept off clothes by
removing snow prior to entering
heated shelters. While the worker
is resting in a heated area,
perspiration should be allowed to
escape by opening the neck, waist,
sleeves and ankle fasteners or by
removing outerwear.
• If fine manual dexterity is not
required, gloves should be used
below 4°C for light work and below
-7°C for moderate work.
• Cotton is not recommended. It
tends to get damp or wet quickly,
and loses its insulating properties.
Wool and synthetic fibres, on the
other hand, do retain heat when
Felt-lined, rubber-bottomed, leathertopped boots with removable felt
insoles are best suited for heavy
work in cold since leather is porous,
allowing the boots to “breathe” and
let perspiration evaporate. Leather
boots can be “waterproofed” with
some products that do not block the
pores in the leather. However, if work
involves standing in water or slush,
the waterproof boots must be worn.
While these protect the feet from
getting wet from cold water in the
work environment, they also prevent
the perspiration to escape. The
insulating materials and socks will
become wet more quickly than when
wearing leather boots and increase
the risk for frostbite.
Adapted from: Threshold Limit
Values (TLV™) and Biological
Exposure Indices (BEI™)
booklet; published by ACGIH,
Cincinnati, Ohio
Little danger in less than one
hour exposure of dry skin
Maximum danger of false
sense of security
DANGER – Exposed flesh
freezes within one minute
GREAT DANGER – Flesh may
freeze within 30 seconds
Risk management in winter conditions
By Nicole Hornett, ARD Farm Safety Coordinator
the role of non-essential workers or
observers (siblings, cousins, friends,
etc.) – now is the time to focus on the
task at hand, not to socialize.
How do outdoor workers cope with
cold weather? For farmers and
ranchers, cold weather or extreme
winter weather represents just
another day on the job. Sometimes
simply adding a layer of clothes just
isn’t enough.
Let’s apply the hierarchy of
control to discover some solutions
for controlling an outdoor worker’s
exposure to cold temperatures (a.k.a.
“the hazard”). The hierarchy of
control is a systematic approach to
put the strongest “line of defense”
between the hazard and the worker.
Can the hazard be eliminated or
Probably not: Livestock still need
to eat and have their water sources
inspected and de-iced. Workers still
need to go outside to get to the barns
or check the enclosures. Evaluate
Which engineered controls could
we put into place?
Do you use machinery to haul
bales, check water and observe the
livestock? Select the most reliable
vehicle with a safe, dependable
heating source to limit exposure
to the cold temperatures. Ensure
you and the vehicle are adequately
equipped with emergency winter gear
and a method of communication.
What would you do if your tractor
stalled at -40°C and you couldn’t get
it re-started?
Are there administrative controls
that could help?
Do you use a cold weather work/
break schedule? It is a great example
of an administrative control. It
outlines how many warm-up breaks
a worker should engage in depending
on the air temperature and the
speed of the wind (wind-chill value).
Scheduling tasks and workers can
Alberta Farm Safety
Alberta Agriculture & Rural Development
1201 10320 – 99 St.
Grande Prairie, AB T8V 6J4
K d L
b k Editor
Farm Safety Coordinator
Grande Prairie
P: 780-538-5606
E: [email protected]
Laurel Aitken
Farm Safety Coordinator
P: 780-980-4230
E: [email protected]
Nicole Hornett
Farm Safety Coordinator
P: 403-948-8524
E: [email protected]
Raelyn Peterson
Farm Safety Coordinator
Grande Prairie
P: 780-538-5633
E: [email protected]
help to ensure no one is over-exposed
to the hazard. Save non-critical
outdoor tasks for warmer days and
limit workers to only essential tasks
when the temperature or wind-chill
values drop. When it’s dangerously
cold, workers should utilize more
frequent check-ins and be trained to
detect and act on cold-related first
aid emergencies.
Is there personal protective
equipment (PPE) we should wear?
In cold weather, PPE is best paired
with engineered and administrative
controls. Sending an unknowing
worker out with only a warm jacket
and good mittens is unsafe. Sending
that same worker out with the
right clothing and the knowledge to
make good decisions about working
in the cold is a much safer option.
Supervisors and workers need to
know their exposure limits and
have ample opportunities to rest,
rehydrate and warm up.
Having a good working knowledge
about the challenges that come with
working in cold temperatures or
extreme winter weather is valuable.
Evaluating those challenges and
putting a safety plan into action
is a great way to ensure everyone
works safely through these upcoming
winter months.
is better
than cure.”
– Edward Coke
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