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Working Outdoors

The Occupational Health and Safety Division provides support and information to help identify hazards and prevent incidents that could cause illness, injury, or death.  Everyone in the workplace is legally responsible for safety.  


1. Working in Hot Conditions

Under The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 1996, employers must take measures to protect workers from heat stress disorders if it is not possible to adequately control indoor and outdoor conditions where work is done. If workers are concerned about the thermal conditions at an indoor place of employment, the employer must supply suitable monitoring equipment to ensure that the conditions are comfortable for the work being done.

In Saskatchewan, conditions that cause heat stress usually occur during summer heat waves or near hot, humid work processes. Engineering and administrative controls can be used to control heat stress and should be implemented by the employer with the help of the occupational health committee or representative at their workplace.

The Hot Conditions Guidelines provides information to employers and workers on how to control hot conditions and prevent heat stress disorders.  


2. Protecting Workers from West Nile Virus

West Nile virus has been present in Saskatchewan since 2002.  People usually get the disease after being bitten by an infected mosquito.  Employers and  outdoor workers need to take precautions to reduce their chances of being bitten.

The Protecting Outdoor Workers from West Nile Virus Guide provides information to employers and workers about what the disease is, who is at risk, the symptoms of the disease, and what employers can do to reduce the risk of infection to outdoor workers.


3. Working in Cold Conditions

The Occupational Health and Safety Regulations, 1996, require employers and contractors to take measures to protect the health and safety of employees who must work outdoors in cold weather.  Experienced workers usually know the best clothing to wear for their jobs.  However, when workers are unexpectedly assigned to outdoor jobs in extremely cold weather, the employer or contractor is expected to:

  • Provide appropriate clothing; or
  • Allow the workers to obtain suitable clothing before starting the task.

Special attention should be given to good hand and footwear, and face and head protection.

How fast a person’s body cools in cold weather depends on:

  • Air temperature;
  • Wind speed;
  • Heat of the sun; and
  • Work being done.

The fingers and toes usually feel cold first.  Shivering then sets in. Shivering is the body’s way of warning that it needs to be warmed-up. If not warmed, a person maybe become distracted by the discomfort and become more likely to have an incident. The risk of frostbite also increases. Employers and contractors should provide a heated warm-up shelter(s) at the workplace where workers can get indoors and out of the cold. 

The Work Warm-Up Schedule

The Work Warm-Up Schedule shows the warm-up breaks required for working in cold conditions and the normal breaks to be provided every two hours.  The schedule allows additional breaks for workers as the wind velocity at the work site increases and/or the temperature drops.

Warm-up breaks should begin when the temperature reaches -26oC (-15oF) with winds of 16km/h (10mph) or greater.   All non-emergency work should stop by the time the temperature reaches -43oC (-45oF) if there is no noticeable wind. If there is wind, use the chart below for advice.

NOTE:  The information in the chart applies to moderate to heavy physical work activity in any four-hour period. At the end of the four-hour period an extended break in a warm location is expected. Warm-up breaks are assumed to provide 10 minutes in a warm environment. These guidelines apply to workers wearing dry clothing.

Sunny Sky Air Temperature No noticeable wind Wind 8 km/h (5 mph) Wind 16 km/h (10 mph) Wind 24 km/h (15 mph) Wind 32 km/h (20 mph)
oC below zero * oF below zero * Max. work period Number of breaks** Max. work period Number of breaks** Max. work period Number of breaks** Max. work period Number of breaks** Max. work period Number of breaks**
26 to 28 15 to 19 120 minutes 1 120 minutes 1 75 minutes 2 55 minutes 3 40 minutes 4
29 to 31 20 to 24 120 minutes 1 75 minutes 2 55 minutes 3 40 minutes 4 30 minutes 5
32 to 34 25 to 29 75 minutes 2 55 minutes 3 40 minutes 4 30 minutes 5 Non-emergency work should stop
35 to 37 30 to 34 55 minutes 3 40 minutes 4 30 minutes 5 Non-emergency work should stop
38 to 39 35 to 39 40 minutes 4 30 minutes 5 Non-emergency work should stop
40 to 42 40 to 44 30 minutes 5 Non-emergency work should stop
43 and below 45 and below Non-emergency work should stop
* All temperatures are approximate.

** Number of breaks: This includes a normal break after 2 hours and the number of additional warm-up breaks needed.

Special measures need to be taken in certain circumstances. 

  1.  When the work involves riding on an unshielded vehicle or some other activity that generates wind, the number of breaks should be increased appropriately. If effective protection against the wind can be provided by shields or screens, work modification or other measures, then the work warm-up schedule for “No Noticeable Wind” would apply.  When work must be done in isolated areas, a ‘buddy system’ or a reliable two-way communication system should be used. Some vehicles may need to be equipped with survival gear.

  1. Apply the schedule one step lower for work with limited physical activity. For example, at -35oC (-30oF) with no noticeable wind, a worker with a job requiring little physical movement should have a maximum work period of 40 minutes with four breaks in a four-hour period.

Estimating Wind Velocity

If reliable weather reports are not available, use the following as a guide to estimate wind velocity:

  • An 8 km/h (5 mph) wind will move a light flag.
  • A 16 km/h (10 mph) wind will fully extend the flag.
  • A 24 km/hr (15 mph) wind will raise a newspaper sheet.
  • A 32 km/h (20 mph) wind will produce blowing and drifting snow.

Environment Canada may report a wind chill index. If wind speeds are higher than those identified in the chart, a wind chill of -51o should be used to determine the point at which all non-emergency work should stop.

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