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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 Canada, the legislation from some jurisdictions provide a range of acceptable temperatures for specific circumstances. In other cases, occupational health and safety jurisdictions use the Threshold Limit Values® for cold stress as published by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). Some Canadian jurisdictions have adopted these TLVs as occupational exposure limits and others use them as guidelines.
Where there are no maximum/minimum exposure limits for cold working environments, there are guidelines that can be used to conduct work/task assessments, create safe work plans, and monitor conditions to protect the health and safety of workers who may be exposed to cold temperatures. Where there are differences between the recommendations made by various organizations (and where there are no established limits or guidelines from your jurisdiction), employers are encouraged to choose a system that best provides protection for their workforce.
For example, ACGIH (2018) suggests a work-warming regimen when work is done continuously in the cold when the wind chill temperature is -7°C (19.4°F), heated warming shelters (tents, cabins, rest rooms, etc) should be made available nearby. Workers should be encouraged to use these shelters, depending on the severity of the exposure. If signs of cold stress are noticed, return to the shelter immediately. For work at or below -12°C (10.4°F), work should include:
See the OSH Answers Cold Environments – Working in the Cold for more information, such as the effect of wind chill.
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.