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OK, we get it. As Canadians, winter is part of our DNA, but sometimes we all need a gentle reminder of the ABCs of staying warm – and safe – in winter.
Despite freezing temperatures, snowstorms and icy conditions, we can't stop work when the cold weather hits. Here are our top tips for protecting workers in the winter.
- Know the Risks
Recognize the potential dangers in your work environment and plan for the right conditions. You’ll need to prepare differently based on factors like the temperature, if a site is wet, the type of equipment being used and the type of work being carried out. Proper training is crucial to help workers understand the risks and learn how to correctly prepare for them.
- Check the Weather
Weather conditions can change quickly in the winter. Be sure to check the weather forecast and keep your eye on the sky whenever you or your workers will be spending a prolonged period of time outside. You’ll want to be prepared in case the temperatures drop or a snowstorm suddenly rolls in.
- Layer Clothing
Encourage your team to wear multiple layers of clothing so they’re warm and ready for any temperature. Layers should include a waterproof outer layer and a and moisture-wicking, thermal inner layer to keep dry and warm.
It’s important to keep as much skin covered in the cold as possible. This should include mittens, gloves, a knit hat and a balaclava to protect the face. It never hurts to have an extra pair of dry socks, either.
- Provide Proper PPE
Be sure to provide workers with the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) for the work they are tasked with. In the winter, PPE might need to be adjusted or treated to prepare it for outdoor use. For example, liners should be added to hard hats to keep workers warm and goggles should be treated with anti-fog spray. Workers should also wear insulated and waterproof steel-toed boots with extra grip to keep from slipping on icy surfaces.
- Give Workers a Place to Warm Up
Workers in extreme conditions should take frequent short breaks throughout the day as more energy is used in the cold to keep muscles warm. Taking breaks in a heated space away from the wind and cold will give workers a chance to warm up and check for signs of frostbite or hypothermia.
- Try to Schedule Work for the Warmest Part of the Day
If possible, try to schedule work for the warmest part of the day. You might also consider pushing back your start time so that workers are not working outside until after sunrise.
- Keep Winter Emergency Kits in Work Vehicles
Just as you would with your own vehicle, keep your company work vehicles stocked with winter emergency kits. Be sure to include an ice scraper, tow straps, blankets and a flashlight with extra batteries. Include salt, ice melt or sand for traction in case a vehicle is stuck.
Check out these tips from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to learn more about protecting workers in cold environments.