Working in Winter
Alberta’s variable and unpredictable weather can create challenging working conditions. With winter weather swinging from day to day, hazardous conditions arise. Employers are responsible for protecting workers and other personnel at work sites from hazardous conditions. Additionally, workers have the responsibility for protecting themselves and others as much as is reasonable possible. With the cold snap we have looming for next week, remember to consider practices and procedures for working in hazardous winter conditions.
Working in winter can cause a number of hazardous conditions – working in the cold, hazardous road conditions, limited daylight hours, etc. Take into account the following hazardous conditions and how to address them:Keep walkways, driveways, parking areas and loading docks clear of snow and ice, and well lit.
- Keep shovels and de-icer available in the areas so they can be kept up.
- Ensure that heating and ventilation systems are in good working order.
- Check the weather forecast. Consider sending workers home early if conditions are deteriorating or offering work-from-home options if possible to eliminate the need for commuting.
In addition to the above, environmental and work site conditions need to be carefully considered to ensure hazards are addressed and mitigated as much as possible:
- Shortened daylight hours increase the need for adequate lighting in work areas, walkways and parking areas.
- Working at heights poses a higher risk in winter. Snow and ice can destabilize supports, pose slipping hazards, and add weight to roofs and raised surfaces.
- Give workers a period of time to adjust to the changing conditions before assigning a full work schedule.
- Provide enclosures and heating systems wherever possible.
- Ensure more frequent breaks are being taken to warm up, ensure work periods between breaks are an appropriate length for the current conditions.
- Ensure workers who are driving in winter conditions have an emergency supply kit available in the vehicle, which includes essentials such as a blanket, water, and shovel.
- Eliminate the need for workers to be working alone as much as possible.
- Provide training for workers performing tasks outside to recognize the signs and symptoms of overexposure, and have a medical response plan and equipment in place.
- Wear appropriate clothing – dress in layers, with the outermost layer being weatherproof, wear appropriate footwear with adequate insulation and tread.
For more information: Working Safely in the Heat and Cold