November 2019 Newsletter:

Baby, Itís Cold Outside: Exposure to the Canadian Elements


In many industries, workers are exposed to extreme temperatures, including outdoor seasonal temperatures and those within climate controlled environments (e.g. refrigerated warehouse, ice rinks). These temperatures tend to place stress on the body, resulting in increased risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD).

Cold Temperatures

workers outdoors during winter

With cold temperatures, workers face physical challenges. When we are cold, our bodyís first instinct is to shiver in an effort to maintain body heat and we tense up and contract our muscles. Exposure to cold temperatures also results in reduced blood flow and circulation as well as muscle contractions and reduced flexibility in muscles, which increases the likelihood of developing an MSD. And to top it off, lower temperatures have a negative impact on manual dexterity, muscular strength, and sensory feedback.

Read on for some helpful tips from PRO for working in the cold:

  • Dress Accordingly: Wearing the appropriate PPE (winter coat, gloves, etc.) is a simple control to protect against the ergonomic risk that comes from working in lower temperatures. PRO Tip: Ask your staff Ė are they warm enough? If the answer is no, start investigating alternatives.
  • Stretch and Move: With reduced blood flow and muscle contractions, we are less suited to perform manual work such as shovelling snow from a walkway. As such, we recommend taking some time before performing manual work to warm-up, and get the blood flowing. PRO Tip: A simple thing such as walking briefly before starting manual handling tasks can make a world of difference.
  • Reduce Exposure Duration: It's important to take breaks in a warm location as required (frequency may depend on temperatures) to reduce overall exposure to colder temperatures. PRO Tip: Consider setting a formal warm-up schedule for those extreme cold days.
  • Stay Dry: Likely we never intend to get wet during work tasks, but minimizing work performed in wet clothes means cold sets in sooner. PRO Tip: Keep a change of clothes (and a few different gloves) nearby just in case.

Be smart and be safe when working in colder temperatures. Itís easy to forget the ergonomic effect that it can have.


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