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The short answer is yes.
At very cold temperatures, the most serious concern is the risk of hypothermia or dangerous overcooling of the body. Another serious effect of cold exposure is frostbite or freezing of the exposed extremities such as fingers, toes, nose and ear lobes. Hypothermia could be fatal in absence of immediate medical attention.
Warning signs of hypothermia can include complaints of nausea, fatigue, dizziness, irritability or euphoria. Workers can also experience pain in their extremities (hands, feet, ears, etc), and severe shivering. Workers should be moved to a heated shelter and seek medical advice when appropriate.
For more information please see our OSH Answers documents on Cold Environments - Health Effects and First Aid.
In some cases, legislation does provide a range of acceptable temperatures for specific circumstances. The Threshold Limit Values® (TLVs®) for cold stress as published by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) have been formally adopted as occupational exposure limits in some jurisdictions, while jurisdictions use the TLVs® as guidelines. See the OSH Answers Temperature Conditions - Legislation for a list of legislation from each jurisdiction.
The ACGIH has adopted the guidelines developed by the Saskatchewan Labour for working outdoors in cold weather conditions. The recommended exposure times are based on the wind chill factor, a scale based on air temperature and wind speed. The work-break schedule applies to any four-hour period with moderate or heavy activity. The warm-up break periods are of 10 minute duration in a warm location. The schedule assumes that "normal breaks" are taken once every two hours. At the end of a 4-hour period, an extended break (e.g. lunch break) in a warm location is recommended. For more information see the webpage from the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Government of Saskatchewan on Working Outdoors.
|Table 1 |
TLVs Work/Warm-up Schedule for Outside Workers based on a Four-Hour Shift*
|Air Temperature - Sunny Sky||No Noticeable Wind||Wind |
|°C (approx)||°F (approx)||Max. work Period||No. of Breaks**||Max. Work Period||No. of Breaks||Max. Work Period||No. of Breaks||Max. Work Period||No. of Breaks||Max. Work Period||No. of Breaks|
|-26° to -28°||-15° to -19°||(Norm breaks) 1||(Norm breaks) 1||75 min.||2||55 min.||3||40 min.||4|
|-29° to -31°||-20°to -24°||(Norm breaks) 1||75 min.||2||55 min.||3||40 min.||4||30 min.||5|
|-32° to -34°||-25°to -29°||75 min.||2||55 min.||3||40 min.||4||30 min.||5||Non-emergency work should cease|
|-35° to -37°||-30° to -34°||55 min.||3||40 min.||4||30 min.||5||Non-emergency work should cease|
|-38° to -39°||-35° to -39°||40 min.||4||30 min.||5||Non-emergency work should cease|
|-40° to -42°||-40°to -44°||30 min.||5||Non-emergency work should cease|
|-43° & below||-45° & below||Non-emergency work should cease|
Source: 2017 TLVs® and BEIs® - Threshold Limit Values for Chemical Substances and Physical Agents and Biological Exposure Indices. Cincinnati: American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), 2017, pages 217-218.
Some Canadian jurisdictions specify a minimum temperature for indoor work environments in buildings that are normally heated. See the OSH Answers on Temperature Conditions - Legislation for a list of legislation.
Employers have a duty to take every reasonable precaution to make sure the workplace is safe for the worker. This duty includes taking effective measures to protect workers from cold stress disorders if it is not reasonably practicable to control indoor conditions adequately, or when the work is done outdoors.
General recommendations include to:
Please see the OSH Answers document Cold Environment - Working in Cold for more information.
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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.