With frigid temperatures and icy conditions forecast, employers are reminded to conduct cold stress risk assessments and implement safety measures to protect workers.
With cold temperatures and winter conditions in the forecast for many parts of B.C., WorkSafeBC is reminding employers to keep workers safe from winter-weather hazards.
“Winter conditions increase the risk of injuries caused by cold stress, frostbite, hypothermia, and slips, trips, and falls due to icy and slippery surfaces,” says Suzana Prpic, Senior Manager, Prevention Field Services. “In addition, winter driving conditions can be dangerous across the province — even the most experienced drivers are challenged by cold temperatures, slippery roads, and reduced visibility.”
Employers are responsible for taking proactive steps to protect workers as weather conditions change — which includes conducting regular risk assessments and implementing appropriate control measures.
Understanding the Risks
Between 2013 and 2023, there were 167 accepted claims for short-term disability or long-term disability benefits for injuries related to cold stress in B.C., including frostbite, hypothermia, and abrasions. In addition, more work-related motor vehicle crashes occur in November, December, and January than in any other three-month period.
Key winter-related risks include:
- Cold stress and hypothermia: Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can lead to cold stress and hypothermia, impacting both physical and mental well-being. Recognizing the signs of these conditions is vital for early intervention.
- Frostbite: In sub-zero temperatures, exposed skin is susceptible to frostbite, which can result in severe tissue damage. Adequate protective measures, such as insulated clothing and regular breaks in warm environments, can mitigate this risk.
- Icy surfaces: Slippery and icy surfaces increase the likelihood of slips, trips, and falls. Employers should take proactive measures to de-ice walkways and provide appropriate footwear to prevent injuries.
- Winter driving: Those who drive as part of their work should plan and check current weather and road conditions and ensure vehicles are properly equipped and maintained for the conditions.
Tailor risk assessments
The risks associated with winter conditions vary across industries and occupations. Workers at risk of cold weather exposure include transport truck drivers; recreational instructors, operators, and attendants; construction workers; and utility and maintenance workers.
“Best results are achieved when frontline workers are actively engaged in risk assessments and the implementation of controls,” says Prpic.
Workers or employers with questions about working in winter conditions are encouraged to visit worksafebc.com for access to resources. In addition, employers and workers can call WorkSafeBC’s Prevention Information Line at: 1-888-621-7233.
WorkSafeBC engages workers and employers to prevent injury, disease, and disability in B.C. When work-related injuries or diseases occur, WorkSafeBC provides compensation and support to people in their recovery, rehabilitation, and safe return to work. We serve 2.6 million workers and 270,000 employers across B.C.
For more information, contact:
Media Relations, WorkSafeBC