Cold Stress Prevention Policy


The West Egg Group is committed to providing a safe, healthy workplace that promotes a high level of job satisfaction and a respectful work environment. We believe that it is a shared responsibility of all employees to work towards the constant improvement of our workplace. To assist the organization in maintaining a safe work environment, we require that all employees of The West Egg Group be familiar with and follow our Cold Stress Prevention Policy, at all times.

What is Cold Stress?

Cold stress or hypothermia can affect workers who are not protected against cold. The cold may occur naturally (e.g., from weather conditions) or be created artificially (e.g., from refrigerated environments). Cold is a physical hazard in many workplaces. When the body is unable to warm itself, serious cold-related illnesses may occur, leading to permanent tissue damage and even death. 

Workplaces exposed to cold, wet, and/or windy conditions include

  • Roofs
  • Open or unheated cabs
  • Bridges or other projects near large bodies of water
  • Large steel structures that retain cold or are exposed to cold
  • High buildings open to the wind
  • Refrigerated rooms, vessels, and containers.
Potential Health Hazards

Exposure to cold causes two major health problems:

  • Hypothermia
  • Frostbite

When the body can no longer maintain core temperature by constricting blood vessels, it shivers to increase heat production. Maximum severe shivering develops when the body temperature has fallen to 35°C (95°F).

Signs and Symptoms

The most critical aspect of hypothermia is the body’s failure to maintain its deep core temperature. 

Lower body temperatures present the following signs and symptoms:

  • Persistent shivering—usually starts when the core temperature reaches 35°c (95°f)
  • Irrational or confused behavior
  • Reduced mental alertness
  • Poor coordination, with obvious effects on safety
  • Reduction in rational decision-making

In addition, acute exertion in cold can constrict blood vessels in the heart. This is particularly important for older workers or workers with coronary disease who may have an increased risk of a heart attack.

Mild hypothermia

Early signs of hypothermia include

        • Shivering
        • Blue lips and fingers
        • Poor coordination

Moderate hypothermia

The next stage includes

        • Mental impairment
        • Confusion
        • Poor decision-making
        • Disorientation
        • Inability to take precautions from the cold
        • Heart slowdown
        • Slow breathing

Severe hypothermia

In severe cases, hypothermia resembles death. Patients must be treated as though they are alive.

Symptoms of severe hypothermia include

        • Unconsciousness
        • No shivering
        • Heart slowdown to the point where the pulse is irregular or difficult to find
        • No detectable breathing

First Aid for Hypothermia

Stop further cooling of the body and provide heat to begin rewarming.

  • Carefully remove individual to shelter
  • Keep the individual awake.
  • Remove wet clothing and wrap individual in warm covers
  • Rewarm neck, chest, abdomen, and groin—but not extremities
  • Apply direct body heat or use safe heating devices
  • Give warm, sweet drinks, but only if the individual is conscious
  • Monitor breathing. 

*Administer artificial respiration if necessary.

  • Call for medical help or transport carefully to the nearest medical facility

Frostbite is a common injury caused by exposure to severe cold or by contact with extremely cold objects. It occurs more readily from touching cold metal objects than from exposure to cold air. That’s because heat is rapidly transferred from skin to metal. 

The body parts most commonly affected by frostbite are the face, ears, fingers, and toes.

When tissue freezes, blood vessels are damaged. This reduces blood flow and may cause gangrene.

Signs and symptoms

Frostbite’s symptoms vary. They are not always painful but often include a sharp, prickling sensation. 

The first indication of frostbite is skin that looks waxy and feels numb. 

Once tissues become hard, the case is a severe medical emergency. 

Severe frostbite results in blistering which usually takes about ten days to subside. 

Once damaged, tissues will always be more susceptible to frostbite in the future.

First Aid for Frostbite

  • Warm frostbitten area gradually with body heat. Do not rub.
  • Don’t thaw hands or feet unless medical aid is distant and there is no chance of refreezing.
  • Apply sterile dressings to blisters to prevent breaking. Get medical attention.
Risk Factors

Various medical conditions can increase the risk of cold injury:

  • Heart disease
  • Asthma/bronchitis
  • Diabetes
  • Vibration/white finger disease

Check with your health practitioner to learn whether the medications you are taking may have adverse effects in a cold environment.


The best protection against cold-related health risks is to be aware and be prepared. Workers should recognize the signs and symptoms of overexposure in themselves and others. Pain in the extremities may be the first warning sign. Any worker shivering severely should come in out of the cold.

  • Ensure that the wind-chill factor is understood by workers, especially those working on bridges or out in the open on high buildings.
  • Ensure that workers are medically fit to work in excessive cold, especially those subject to the risk factors highlighted in the previous section.
  • Make sure that workers understand the importance of high-caloric foods when working in the cold. Warm sweet drinks and soups should be arranged at the worksite to maintain caloric intake and fluid volume. Coffee should be discouraged because it increases water loss and blood flow to extremities.
  • Personnel working in isolated cold environments, whether indoors or outdoors, should have a backup.
  • Provide hot drinks and regular breaks under extremely cold working conditions.

Select protective clothing to suit the cold, the job, and the level of physical activity.

  • Wear several layers of clothing rather than one thick layer. The air captured between layers is an insulator.
  • Wear synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene next to the skin because these wicks away sweat. Clothing should not restrict flexibility.
  • If conditions are wet as well as cold, ensure that the outer clothing worn is waterproof or at least water-repellent. Wind-resistant fabrics may also be required under some conditions.
  • At air temperatures of 2°C (35.6°F) or less, workers whose clothing gets wet for any reason must be immediately given a change of clothing and be treated for hypothermia.
  • Encourage the use of hats and hoods to prevent heat loss from the head and to protect ears. Balaclavas or other face covers may also be necessary under certain conditions.
  • Tight-fitting footwear restricts blood flow. Footwear should be large enough to allow wearing either one thick or two thin pairs of socks. Wearing too many socks can tighten the fit of footwear and harm rather than help.
  • Workers who get hot while working should open their jackets but keep hats and gloves on.
Exposure Limits

Ontario has no legislated exposure limits for working in cold environments. 

The table below was developed by the Saskatchewan Department of Labour and adopted by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). It indicates Threshold Limit Values for properly clothed personnel working at temperatures below freezing.

Source: Adapted from Threshold Limit Values (TLV) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEI) booklet: published by ACGIH, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2018, page 222.