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Bitter cold means heightened risk for outdoor workers

Frostbite accounted for 88 percent of cold-related injuries over last five years

Published on: February 06, 2019

Richmond, B.C. — With temperatures plummeting this week in northern B.C., WorkSafeBC is reminding employers and workers they need to prepare and have a plan in place to manage the risks of working outside in sub-zero temperatures.

From 2013 to 2018, 68 workers in B.C. were injured as a result of cold exposure, and one worker died in the Okanagan region in 2014. Injuries included frostbite and hypothermia, which can take hold gradually and, if untreated, lead to death.

“In Prince George, the bitterly cold temperatures are going to remain for the next week or so,” says Barry Nakahara, Manager of Prevention Field Services for WorkSafeBC. “Employers must conduct risk assessments in those circumstances, and have a control plan in place to ensure worker safety.”

Frostbite, which accounted for 60 of the 68 cold-related injuries over the last five years, can happen fast — in just a few minutes — in extreme temperatures, especially when wind or wet clothing are factors. Some of the at-risk occupations are transport truck drivers; recreational instructors, operators and attendants; construction workers; and utility and maintenance workers.

The following tips will help prepare outdoor workers and prevent injury:

  • Keep an eye on temperature and wind-chill forecasts from Environment Canada
  • Minimize skin exposure
  • Layer clothing to trap heat and allow perspiration to escape
  • Keep clothing dry
  • Keep bare hands away from metal objects
  • Stay hydrated and limit intake of coffee and tea
  • Work rested — fatigue is a risk factor in the cold
  • Wear a hat to help retain body heat
  • Pace any vigorous work with scheduled breaks in warm and dry areas

For more information on preventing cold-weather injuries visit Cold stress.

WorkSafeBC is an independent provincial statutory agency governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the provincial government. The organization serves approximately 2.4 million workers and 238,000 employers throughout British Columbia. In administering the Workers Compensation Act, the organization is accountable to the public through the provincial government.

For more information or to request a media interview, please contact:

Gillian Burnett
Media Relations, WorkSafeBC
Cell: 778.870.3848

Erica Simpson
Media Relations, WorkSafeBC
Cell: 778.874.0281