FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Officials with WorkSafe BC are reminding outdoor workers in the Fort St. John area to be wary of the potential of developing frostbite on the job in the coming days.
In a release, WorkSafe spokesperson Gillian Burnett said that temperatures are forecast to dip well below -20 degrees Celsius over the next week, and WorkSafe wants to alert employers and workers to be prepared and have a plan in place to manage the risks associated with working outside in frigid conditions.
In the last five years, 77 workers in B.C. were injured as a result of exposure to environmental cold. Injuries included frostbite, which can result from something as simple as working with wet gloves. A more serious condition is hypothermia which can take hold of a worker gradually and if untreated, can lead to death. Four years ago, a worker in the Okanagan succumbed to cold-stress injuries.
“Last winter, it was unusually cold in the early months of the year in parts of B.C. and we saw cold-stress-related injuries increase as a result,” says Dan Strand, Director of Prevention Field Services for WorkSafeBC. “Employers must conduct systematic risk assessments to identify hazards and implement a cold-exposure control plan to ensure workers are protected.”
In extreme temperatures, without the proper clothing and equipment, frostbite can occur in a matter of minutes. Construction workers, drivers, utility and maintenance workers, and ski-hill operators are among the many occupations that work outdoors, and employers and workers need to ensure they prepare for these conditions.
WorkSafe also offered the following cold-stress prevention tips:
- 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 but 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