Workers Health & Safety Centre

How cold is too cold? Working in extreme temperature conditions

Seasonal temperature stresses are hazardous for those who work outdoors. Transitioning from the heat of summer to fall and winter temperatures mean workers face another hazard – the cold.

 Did you know employers and supervisors have a duty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)  to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker? This includes developing hot and cold environment policies and procedures to protect workers in hot and cold environments.

Workers Health & Safety Centre (WHSC) offers a Heat and Cold Stress training program that looks at both sides of temperature stresses and helps to meet OHSA duties. The training provides workers, supervisors joint health and safety committee members and worker health and safety reps in smaller workplaces with the knowledge and skills required to enable them to recognize and assess the hazards associated with heat and cold stress and to recommend controls to eliminate or reduce exposure to these hazards in their workplaces.

As the weather begins to turn, there are four factors that contribute to cold stress:
  • cold temperatures,
  • high or cold wind,
  • dampness
  • and cold water

A cold environment forces the body to work harder to maintain its core temperature of 36.5 to 37.4 degrees. Cold air, water, and snow all draw heat from the body. So, while it is evident that below freezing conditions combined with inadequate clothing could bring about cold stress, it is important to understand that it can also be brought about by temperatures between 10 to15 degrees coupled with rain and/or wind.

Of course, these are in addition to cold work conditions many workers face indoors, such as workers in food processing plants and warehouses where doors are often left open.

Prevent this hazard through training

Heat and Cold Stress - Virtual
Training participants will explore how the body reacts to temperature extremes and specific situations where workers may be exposed to dangerous levels of heat or cold. The lack of specific legislation protecting exposed workers is discussed along with measures for identifying and assessing potential health risks from temperature extremes. Participants will also consider specific methods of controlling worker exposure to temperature extremes and discuss the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of each. So equipped, participants will be prepared to recommend interventions for the coming winter months and help workplaces plan for the next season of extreme heat.


Visit us online for a catalogue of all our training programs. Registration for virtual and in-person classroom training closes two weeks before each training date.

Need more information?
Contact a WHSC training services representative in your area.
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