Know the Laws: Cold Stress & Workplace Temperature Standards


Here’s what the OHS laws say about cold stress and workplace temperature standards:

FEDERAL: Regulations require: a. Labour Canada sets indoor workplace exposure limits based on temperature. If temperatures drop below minimum levels, operations must be halted and workers relocated or released; b. Minimum temperature for food preparation areas: 18°C; first aid room: 21°C; office work: 20°C (based on Treasury Board Guidelines); Guidelines recommend: d. Complying with American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) threshold limit values (TLVs) for cold stress, (CCOHS “OSH Answers: Extreme Hot or Cold Temperature Conditions” (Aug. 8, 2001)),

ALBERTA: No regulations. Guidelines recommend: a. Risk assessment to determine potential for cold stress injuries; b. Engineering and work controls,  including heated warming shelters, warming fluids and protective observation by co-workers; c. Worker training; and d. Compliance with ACGIH TLVs,  (“Workplace Health and Safety Bulletin: Working in the Cold” (April 2004)).

BRITISH COLUMBIA: Regulations require: a. Complying with ACGIH TLVs; b. Cold stress assessment and cold exposure control plan; c. Engineering controls to limit exposure “if practicable”; d. If not practicable, use of administrative controls and PPE; e. Providing a heated shelter to workers exposed to environments with equivalent chill temperatures of -7°C or below; and f. Removal and treatment by first aid attendant or physician of workers who show  signs or report symptoms of cold stress, (OHS Regulations, Part 7, Secs. 7.34-38 (supplemented by Guidelines (Jan. 1, 2005)),

MANITOBA: No regulations. Guidelines recommend: a. Complying with ACGIH TLVs; b. Engineering controls including heated shelters; c. Appropriate  PPE; and d. Administrative controls such as warm-up breaks even when appropriate winter clothing is used, (“Work Safe Bulletin: Working in the Cold” (Oct. 1997)),

NEW BRUNSWICK: Regulations require: a. Minimum temperatures of between 12°C and 20°C, depending on physical demands of the job; b.Competent person must measure and record thermal conditions “at frequent intervals” and give JHSC access to findings; c. Complying with ACGIH TLVs; and d. Instruction on symptoms and prevention of cold stress injuries, (OHS General Regulations, Secs. 22, 23(2), & 44); Guidelines recommend providing sheltered warm-up breaks, (“Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission Risk Alert: Surviving the Cold” (Nov. 2003)),

NEWFOUNDLAND/LABRADOR: Regulations require: a. Complying with ACGIH TLVs; b. Monitoring; and c. Administrative and engineering controls such  as warning notices, protective clothing, shelters, medical supervision, acclimatization and limited work schedules with rest period, (OHS Regulations, Sec. 10).

NORTHWEST TERRITORIES/NUNAVUT: No regulations or guidelines addressing occupational exposure to cold. Camp sanitation regulations require overnight minimum temperature of 18°C.

NOVA SCOTIA: Regulations require complying with ACGIH TLVs, (Occupationa Health Regs., Sec. 4(1)); Health and safety publications for particular industries also recommend protective equipment. Example: “Fish Safe: A Handbook for Commercial Fishing and Aquaculture” (2004).

ONTARIO: Construction regulations require: a. Change rooms to be at least 27°C; and b. Medical locks to be between 18°C and 27°C, (OHS Regulations for Construction Projects, Sec. 260(3)(d)); Regulations for industrial establishments requires minimum temperature of 18°C unless impracticable, (OHS Regulations for Industrial Establishments, Sec. 129(1)); Regulations for mines require providing a heated room for underground workers, (OHS Regulations for Mines & Mining Ops, Sec. 260(1)).

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND: Regulations require: a. Minimum temperature between 12°C and 20°C, depending on practicality and nature of work; and b. Complying with ACGIH TLVs. (OHS Regulations, Secs. 11.10 and 42.1); Guidelines recommend c. Use of engineering controls; d. Use of administrative controls; e. Exposure plan to minimize risk of injury; f. Worker training about signs and prevention of cold stress injuries; and g. Heated work breaks, (“Workers Compensation Board: Guide to Cold Stress at Work” (Jan. 2006).

QUEBEC: OHS Regulations require a. Maintaining “appropriate temperature” in closed rooms based on work and outside climate; b. Furnishing a “warm place” if such temperatures can’t be maintained; c. Keeping lunchrooms heated to at least 20ºC, (OHS Regulations, Secs. 116-118); Construction regulations require: d. “Adequate” heating of motorized equipment cabins during cold weather, (OHS Construction Regs., Sec. 3.10.10(c)); Mine regulations require e. Minimum dry house temperature of 22°C; and f. Complying with ACGIH TLVs, (OHS Mining Regs, Sec. 114).

SASKATCHEWAN: Regulations require: a. Maintaining thermal conditions, including air temperature, radiant temperature, humidity and air movement for workers’ “reasonable thermal comfort”; b. Monitoring indoor and outdoor conditions where workers are exposed; and c. Providing measures to protect workers, including special or temporary equipment such as shelters, PPE, hot drinks, acclimatization, limited work schedules with rest and recovery periods, observation by workers trained to recognize cold stress symptoms and emergency supplies (OHS Regs., Sec. 70); Guidelines: d. Complying with government’s work warm-up schedule for outside workers; e. Following thermal comfort guidelines of American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers for indoor workers (“Saskatchewan Dept. of Labour: Cold Conditions Guidelines for Outside Workers” (Jan., 2000)) and (“Thermal Comfort in Offices and Retail Outlets”).

YUKON: Regulations require: a. Maintaining indoor air conditions (including air temperature, radiant temperature, humidity and air movement) that are “reasonable and appropriate to the nature of the work performed”; b. Measuring indoor thermal conditions; and c. Measures to protect workers, including special or temporary equipment such as shelters, PPE, hot drinks, acclimatization and limited work schedules with rest and recovery periods, (Occupational Health Regs., Sec. 9).