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Falling through ice can result in injuries from the fall, hypothermia, or drowning. Common hazards include:
This document covers general considerations when working on or near ice, for example, when driving on an ice road. For more detailed information about working on ice, see the resources at the end of the document. For information about working in cold temperatures, please see the following OSH Answers:
Fresh water freezes at 0°C, and sea (salt) water freezes at -2°C.
The strength of the ice depends on many factors, including:
For example, solid, clear blue ice forms when water freezes and is generally considered to be the strongest type of ice. White opaque ice (also known as "snow ice" that is formed when there is air trapped in the ice) has a high air content and is not strong.
The strength or integrity of the ice is also affected by:
Essentially, there is no absolutely "safe" ice.
Ice must have a minimum denisty to be considered safe to walk or travel on. The thickness and hardness required increase in proportion to the weight of the load and how it is distributed on the ice sheet.
Ice is constantly changing. In addition to the characteristics of the ice mentioned above, the ability of the ice to support a load depends on:
Calculations and thickness charts from Work Safe Alberta provide guidelines to help determine the thickness, strength and safety of the ice.
In addition, ice bends when a load is placed upon it. While the ice may appear rigid, ice will flex depending on its temperature, the weight of the load, etc. Cracking may occur when the ice is overloaded. Under extreme loads, the cracks can grow and merge to cause the ice to collapse.
If walking or working on foot,
Before travelling on ice, make sure that operators know:
Controls will vary depending on the hazards present, and may include:
Have an emergency plan to be followed in the event of breakthrough. Plan how a rescue of a person who has fallen into the ice and water may be done. In addition, drivers in remote areas should be equipped with appropriate survival equipment and food rations if they are stranded for extended period of time during whiteout conditions.
General tips include:
Also see the OSH Answers on Protection from Drowning for more information.
More information is available from:
(*We have mentioned these organizations as a means of providing a potentially useful referral. You should contact the organization(s) directly for more information about their services. Please note that mention of these organizations does not represent a recommendation or endorsement by CCOHS of these organizations over others of which you may be aware.)
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Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.