Keeping workers warm

As deep freeze grips much of the nation, employers need to keep a close eye on workers
By
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 01/27/2003

With the deep freeze gripping much of the nation, the Alberta government offers the following safety tips to protect workers in extreme cold weather.

Working outside in the cold can make workers vulnerable to frostbite and hypothermia, which can be fatal. Worksites must be carefully heated or dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can result.

Using space heaters

During cold weather and extreme wind chill temperatures, worksites often use temporary heaters for warmth.

Using propane or kerosene heaters that are poorly ventilated can lead to unsafe work conditions and cause drowsiness, headaches and dizziness. This occurs from the reduced oxygen levels and a buildup of carbon monoxide caused by the heater.

Safe ways to use space heaters

•Allow a fresh air vent by opening a window or door. Lots of ventilation or fresh air is needed where heaters are being used. For example, when using a large 165,000 BTU propane or kerosene heater in a double car garage or equal-sized building, the overhead door should be open at least seven inches.

•Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure safe use of the heating device.

•Consider using electric heaters in enclosed areas with limited ventilation.

Exposure

Many workers may be at risk of exposure to cold temperatures and cold water

during work activities.

Exposure to cold conditions occurs during outdoor, seasonal work, and indoors in refrigerated or cold storage areas. Workers exposed to cold conditions may have their health, safety, and productivity affected.

The human body functions most efficiently within a narrow temperature range. At two degrees Celsius above or below the body’s normal temperature of 37 degrees Celsius, additional stress is placed on the body to regulate its temperature (such as shivering to keep warm and perspiring to keep cool.)

Sources of heat external to the body can help to maintain and regain body temperature. However, preserving the heat generated internally by the body and maintaining the body’s ability to produce this heat are key to maintaining personal comfort and performance in the cold.

More information is available online at www.gov.ab.ca/hre/whs/publications/pdf/mg021.pdf.

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