Working in the cold

Working in the Cold


Protective clothing is needed for work at or below 4°C. Clothing should be selected to suit the temperature, weather conditions (e.g., wind speed, rain), the level and duration of activity, and job design. These factors are important to consider so that you can regulate the amount of heat and perspiration you generate while working. If the work pace is too fast or if the type and amount of clothing are not properly selected, excessive sweating may occur. The clothing next to body will become wet and the insulation value of the clothing will decrease dramatically. This increases the risk for cold injuries.

  • Clothing should be worn in multiple layers which provide better protection than a single thick garment. The air between layers of clothing provides better insulation than the clothing itself. Having several layers also gives you the option to open or remove a layer before you get too warm and start sweating or to add a layer when you take a break. It also allows you to accommodate changing temperatures and weather conditions. Successive outer layers should be larger than the inner layer, otherwise the outermost layer will compress the inner layers and will decrease the insulation properties of the clothing.
  • The inner layer should provide insulation and be able to “wick” moisture away from the skin to help keep it dry. Thermal underwear made from polyesters or polypropylene is suitable for this purpose. “Fishnet” underwear made from polypropylene wicks perspiration away from the skin and is significantly thicker than regular underwear. It also keeps the second layer away from the skin. The open mesh pattern enables the moisture to evaporate and be captured on the next layer away from the skin. The second layer covers the “holes” in the fishnet underwear which contributes to the insulation properties of the clothing.
  • The additional layers of clothing should provide adequate insulation for the weather conditions under which the work being done. They should also be easy to open or remove before you get too warm to prevent excessive sweating during strenuous activity. Outer jackets should have the means for closing off and opening the waist, neck and wrists to help control how much heat is retained or given off. Some jackets have netted pockets and vents around the trunk and under the arm pits (with zippers or Velcro fasteners) for added ventilation possibilities.
  • For work in wet conditions, the outer layer of clothing should be waterproof. If the work area cannot be shielded against wind, an easily removable windbreak garment should be used. Under extremely cold conditions, heated protective clothing should be made available if the work cannot be done on a warmer day.
  • Almost 50 percent of body heat is lost through the head. A wool knit cap or a liner under a hard hat can reduce excessive heat loss.
  • Clothing should be kept clean since dirt fills air cells in fibres of clothing and destroys its insulating ability.
  • Clothing must be dry. Moisture should be kept off clothes by removing snow prior to entering heated shelters. While the worker is resting in a heated area, perspiration should be allowed to escape by opening the neck, waist, sleeves and ankle fasteners or by removing outerwear. If the rest area is warm enough it is preferable to take off the outer layer(s) so that the perspiration can evaporate from the clothing.
  • If fine manual dexterity is not required, gloves should be used below 4°C for light work and below -7°C for moderate work. For work below -17°C, mittens should be used.
  • Cotton is not recommended. It tends to get damp or wet quickly, and loses its insulating properties. Wool and synthetic fibres, on the other hand, do retain heat when wet.


Felt-lined, rubber bottomed, leather-topped boots with removable felt insoles are best suited for heavy work in cold since leather is porous, allowing the boots to “breathe” and let perspiration evaporate. Leather boots can be “waterproofed” with some products that do not block the pores in the leather. However, if work involves standing in water or slush (e.g., fire fighting, farming), the waterproof boots must be worn. While these protect the feet from getting wet from cold water in the work environment, they also prevent the perspiration to escape. The insulating materials and socks will become wet more quickly than when wearing leather boots and increase the risk for frostbite.


You may prefer to wear one pair of thick, bulky socks or two pairs – one inner sock of silk, nylon, or thin wool and a slightly larger, thick outer sock. Liner socks made from polypropylene will help keep feet dry and warmer by wicking sweat away from the skin. However, as the outer sock becomes damper, its insulation properties decrease. If work conditions permit, have extra socks available so you can dry your feet and change socks during the day. If two pairs of socks are worn, the outer sock should be a larger size so that the inner sock is not compressed.

Always wear the right thickness of socks for your boots. If they are too thick, the boots will be “tight,” and the socks will lose much of their insulating properties when they are compressed inside the boot. The foot would also be “squeezed” which would slow the blood flow to the feet and increase the risk for cold injuries. If the socks are too thin, the boots will fit loosely and may lead to blisters.

Face and Eye Protection

In extremely cold conditions, where face protection is used, eye protection must be separated from the nose and mouth to prevent exhaled moisture from fogging and frosting eye shields or glasses. Select protective eye wear that is appropriate for the work you are doing, and for protection against ultraviolet light from the sun, glare from the snow, blowing snow/ice crystals, and high winds at cold temperatures.

What are some additional prevention tips for working in the cold?

To prevent excessive sweating while working, remove clothing in the following order:

  • mittens or gloves (unless you need protection from snow or ice),
  • headgear and scarf.
  • Then open the jacket at the waist and wrists, and
  • Remove layers of clothing.

As you cool down, follow the reverse order of the above steps.

Prevent contact of bare skin with cold surfaces (especially metallic) below -7°C as well as avoiding skin contact when handling evaporative liquids (gasoline, alcohol, cleaning fluids) below 4°C. Sitting or standing still for prolonged periods should also be avoided.

Balanced meals and adequate liquid intake are essential to maintain body heat and prevent dehydration. Eat properly and frequently. Working in the cold requires more energy than in warm weather because the body is working to keep the body warm. It requires more effort to work when wearing bulky clothing and winter boots especially when walking through snow.

Drink fluids often especially when doing strenuous work. For warming purposes, hot non-alcoholic beverages or soup are suggested. Caffeinated drinks such as coffee should be limited because it increases urine production and contributes to dehydration. Caffeine also increases the blood flow at the skin surface which can increase the loss of body heat.

Alcohol should not be consumed as it causes expansion of blood vessels in the skin (cutaneous vasodilation) and impairs the body’s ability to regulate temperature (it affects shivering that can increase your body temperature) . These effects cause the body to lose heat and thus increase the risk of hypothermia.

In refrigerated rooms, the air speed should not exceed 1 meter per second. If workers are simultaneously exposed to vibration and/or toxic substances, reduced limits for cold exposure may be necessary.

Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

christmas lights safety

Christmas Lights Safety

Holiday season is upon us now and it is time to decorate the house. Stringing lights can be hazardous so before you light up your house take a few minutes to go through a quick safety checklist.

  1. Double check that your lights are designed for outdoor use as not all lights can handle the outside temperatures. Indoor lights have less insulation resulting in a greater likeliness of them cracking when exposed to the cold.
  2. Check your lights for exposed wires, broken sockets, loose connections or frayed ends.
  3. Don’t use nails, screws or anything that can pierce the cord to mount the lights
  4. If you are using an extension cord occasionally check the cord for overheating. If it’s too hot – unplug it.
  5. Elevate the connection point of the extension cord to keep water and snow out of the connections.
  6. Tape down any ground level cords to avoid people tripping over them.
  7. Turn the lights off when you leave the house or go to bed.
  8. Replace burnt out bulbs as soon as possible. Make sure that the wattage of the new bulbs is the same as the wattage of the old.
  9. Make sure the lights are well secured to prevent damage from wind.
  10. Be careful with ladders. We have an online Ladder Safety course to ensure your safety.
  11. Do not hang the lights by yourself to avoid injury or have someone to call for help if an accident happens.
  12. Make sure the lights are kept out of the reach of kids and pets cannot reach the lights.
  13. Don’t bunch up Christmas lights together as the heat can melt the insulation and expose wires.
  14. Seal your lights well when putting them back into storage to ensure they’re kept safe from water and rodents’ teeth.
  15. Utilize lights with fused plugs. They do not spark in the case of a short circuit.

For more safety information on avoiding dangerous situations that occur during winter holiday season purchase our online Winter Safety course. In the course we will cover using string lights, fires, using candles, dressing for cold weather, working in the cold and so on.

winter driving

Winter Driving Tips

Do you know how to drive properly in winter conditions? The following tips will help you avoid problems out on the road.

  1. Maintain a safe following distance. Allow yourself at least three times the normal following distance to stop.
  2. Drop your speed. The posted speed limit is meant for perfect road conditions. It is safer to drive below the posted speed if the road is icy or covered with snow.
  3. Accelerate and brake slowly to maintain traction. When stopping apply brakes slowly and gently to avoid sliding or skidding.
  4. Be seen. Keep your headlights on at all time to remain seen by other drivers. Don’t expect daytime running lights to be enough.
  5. Do not use cruise control in winter conditions. Breaking to release the control can make bad situation even worse in cases where you need to respond quickly.
  6. Have some basic supplies in case you get stuck.
    • Snowbrush, ice scraper and extra windshield washer fluid to ensure you have   good visibility at all times
    • A shovel and a bag of sand to help with traction
    • Extra winter clothes or a blanket to keep warm if you are stuck for a long time
  1. Signal in advance. Give other drivers plenty of notice before turning. This will give them time to react and adjust their driving accordingly.
  2. Avoid sudden moves. Loss of control can occur in cases of sudden change of direction or braking. Slow down and steer gently and gradually to avoid skidding.
  3. Make sure your tire pressure is at the manufacturer’s recommendation and your tires are in good condition.

For complete information and certification on winter driving please see our online Winter Driving Fundamentals course. It will help you reduce winter driving risk and offer simple solutions to winter driving challenges.

Calgary Location Now Open

Alberta BC Safety is proud and excited to announce the opening of our new training facility in Calgary, AB. At this time we are offering the following courses at this training facility: OSSA Basic Safety Orientation (BSO), OSSA Fall Protection, OSSA Elevated Work Platform and OSSA Confined Space Entry / Monitor.

Phone: (587) 351-3011

Address: 3621 63 Ave NE, Calgary, AB T3J 5K1

Hours of Operations: Mon-Fri 7:30am – 4pm

Click here to view the training schedule for our Calgary location.

OSSA BSO Course Replaces Regional Orientation

OSSA Basic Safety Orientation (BSO)

Effective July 1, 2015, the OSSA BSO (Basic Safety Orientation) has replaced the OSSA Regional Orientation (ORO).

All contractors must either show proof of completion of the old OSSA Regional Orientation or the NEW OSSA Basic Safety Orientation (BSO).

OSSA BSO (Basic Safety Orientation)  is approx. 4.5 hours in duration.

Upon completion of the OSSA Basic Safety Orientation Program a worker will be able to present their credential to participating Oil Sands Safety Association Owner Member sites (Canadian Natural, Shell Albian Sands, Suncor Energy Inc., and Syncrude Canada Ltd.) as proof of completing the orientation.

You can book this course at the following ABCS training centres: