Is it safe to work at -24°C ?

A while back a Barpro team was overhauling a Storax system.  Another team was in charge of the  dismantling and reassembly of the racking superstructure. Throughout the overhaul the room was kept at operational temperature, somewhere between -20°C and -24°C.  Shortly after the overhaul had been completed, a member of the racking team tragically died.

It seems that he didn’t feel well and eventually went to the local hospital where his condition was not correctly diagnosed.  When the seriousness of his condition was realised it was already too late.  It appears that he had pneumonia.

On hearing about this incident I emailed contacts in the UK, Australia and the US to see what procedures there were to cover people working in the cold.

The collective wisdom seems to be as follows

1.  Employees working in the cold must wear the correct protective clothing, which will keep them  warm and work at a rate which minimises sweating.

Barpro Team working comfortably in a cold store
The Barpro Team working comfortably at -20°C in a cold store. They are wearing Delf Coldwear suits.

2.  At regular break times hot drinks should be available, but preferably without lots of sugar, as this can eventually lead to other problems.
3.  During breaks, employees should be able to sit in a warm dry area.
4.  Any employee who has a cold, flu, asthma or any sort of chest or throat infection must not be allowed to work in the cold.
5.  Any employee who becomes sick after working in the cold must be taken to a doctor who must be informed of the work that the employee has been doing, ie working at -20°C.

6.  Anyone with a heart complaint or high blood pressure should not work in a cold store environment.  This is because of the thermal shock experienced on entering and leaving a cold room.
7.  All employees who work regularly at -20°C should have annual medical check-ups from a doctor who knows of their working conditions.

Working in the cold by itself will not make someone sick.  However it can exacerbate an existing condition.

Anyone who is interested can read more about the effects of cold on the human body HERE

Keep your staff properly protected when working in a cold storage environment.  Barpro Storage staff wear Delf Coldwear.

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