What are the precautions to take at work in case of severe cold?

Publié le 12 décembre 2023 - Legal and Administrative Information Directorate (Prime Minister)

During this winter period, the Department of Labor recalls the precautions that employers must take in the extreme cold as part of their duty of safety at work.

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What risks for employees?

In the face of extreme cold, employees who do not receive sufficient protection risk:

  • hypothermia (characterized by chills, fatigue, confusion, or loss of consciousness);
  • musculoskeletal disorders (caused by lack of rest or by repetitive movements);
  • frostbite;
  • decreased blood supply to the fingers;
  • cramps.

What measures should be taken?

In order to prevent these various risks and the occurrence of accidents, the employer must take the following measures:

  • adapting the organization of work in the presence of a risk of extreme temperature drop;
  • transmit the adapted information the employees concerned;
  • use suitable protective equipment : gloves, pants and insulating jackets, overpants, socks, hats;
  • planning work outdoors depending on weather conditions in the presence (in particular in construction);
  • train staff in first-aid measures ;
  • limiting cold zone work and provide for breaks adapted;
  • make available to employees localized heaters (for stations particularly exposed to cold).

Please note

Provisions can be put in place for the recovery of lost hours. Without agreement, the recovery of hours must not have the effect of increasing the working hours by more than one hour per day or by more than eight hours per week.

Which sectors are particularly at risk?

Some activities are more exposed to the cold, in particular those in which work outside the home is used:

  • construction works;
  • retail trade;
  • agri-food;
  • the transportation industry—

Please note

This includes activities in warehouses and sectors where employees use a vehicle in a professional setting.