Employees exposed to temperature extremes may be at risk of hot or cold stress, which can cause significant health hazards. If overexposed, their bodies can quickly be overcome with heat-related or cold-related illnesses. Employees that work outdoors (construction, landscaping, delivery services, etc.) are at particular risk.
Where employees could potentially be exposed to extreme temperatures, as an employer you must ensure that:
While the employer is ultimately responsible for all the provisions mentioned above, the supervisor has a vital role to play in the safety of their teams. As a supervisor, you must:
Working in the Heat
During the summer, meteorologists measure the humidex to warn people when temperatures become hazardous. However, the humidex does not take into account the level of activity performed by employees so WorkSafeNB (and some other provinces) require employers to meet the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) threshold limit value (TLV for heat stress). The index used by ACGIH is called the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT).
Since measuring WBGT can be challenging for employers, the humidex readings can be used as a guide to limit moderate to heavy work activities to cooler times of the day (early morning or evening) or delay them entirely until the outdoor temperature cools off.
Whether working inside or outside during the hot summer months, it is important that employees listen to their bodies and learn to recognize the five main forms of heat stress and their symptoms:
There are various factors that can influence the onset of heat related symptoms, including:
Tips for Preventing Overexposure to Heat and Sun
Working in the Cold
Cold weather can be a serious hazard. Construction, trucking, farming and logging are examples of occupations where the potential for hypothermia and frostbite exists. There are also safety problems associated with working in cold environments - ice, snow, burns from contact with cold metal, slowed reaction time and snow blindness.
Learn to recognize the warning signs of hypothermia:
For frostbite, in mild cases, the symptoms include inflammation of the skin in patches accompanied by slight pain. In severe cases, there could be tissue damage without pain, or there could be burning or prickling sensations resulting in blisters.
Tips for Preventing Overexposure to Cold
General Regulation - Occupational Health and Safety Act
N.B. Reg. 91-191
Part II SANITATION AND ACCOMMODATION
Section 4 Drinking Water
4. (1) An employer shall ensure that sufficient potable water for drinking is readily available and that it meets the standards set out in the "Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality" , Sixth Edition, published by authority of the Minister of National Health and Welfare, 1996.
(2) Where drinking water is not taken directly from a water pipe, an employer shall ensure that it is kept in an adequately covered container and that, if used by more than one employee, the container is equipped with a drain faucet.
(3) An employer shall ensure that individual sanitary drinking vessels or cups are provided, except where the drinking water is delivered in an upward jet from which an employee may drink.
(4) Where outlets exist for both drinking water and water not suitable for drinking, an employer shall ensure that the outlets are appropriately and clearly labelled.
[N.B. Reg. 2001-33, s. 2]
Part III AIR QUALITY
Section 22 Extremes of Temperature
22. Where an employee is exposed to work conditions that may present a hazard because of extreme heat or extreme cold, an employer shall ensure that
(a) a competent person measures and records the thermal conditions at frequent intervals and makes the findings available to a committee, if any, and to an officer on request, and
(b) the threshold limit values for protection against heat stress and cold stress are followed as well as the work-rest regimen for heat and the work-warming regimen for cold and other advice found from pages 125 to 140 of the ACGIH publication "1997 Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents and Biological Exposure Indices".
[N.B. Reg. 2001-33, s. 6]
23. (1) Where an employee is exposed to work conditions that may present a hazard because of excessive heat, an employer shall ensure that a competent person instructs the employee in the significance of symptoms of heat stress such as heat exhaustion, dehydration, heat cramps, prickly heat and heat stroke and in the precautions to be taken to avoid injury from heat stress.
(2) Where an employee is exposed to work conditions that may present a hazard because of excessive cold, an employer shall ensure that a competent person instructs the employee in the significance of symptoms of cold stress such as severe shivering, pain in the extremities of the body and reduced mental awareness and in the precautions to be taken to avoid injury from cold stress.