Canada is known for its extreme, cold weather. With many areas covered in snow all year round, health and safety around ice and ice-covered water are paramount. With lakes and other water bodies freezing over during the winter season, one has to be particularly careful about working on or near ice-covered water.

Why is working on ice hazardous?

Unintentional falls result in over 1800 Canadians visiting a hospital for treatment. Slipping on ice is the most common reason for these falls, which can result in broken bones and bruises.

When working on ice, there’s always a chance that the ice breaks and one falls into the cold water. This results in hypothermia. Other hazards include working on ice that’s damaged, working on thin ice, working in harsh weather, and overloading the ice.

Guidelines when working on ice-covered water

The thickness of the ice

Ice isn’t ever safe to work on. It’s slippery, cold, and has water underneath. There’s therefore no ‘safe’ level thickness of ice. However, the minimum density considered safe to walk or travel depends on the weight and its distribution. Ice is prone to cracking; any uneven weight distribution and pressure in one area can cause cracks. You can calculate the safe thickness of ice effectively via this bulletin.

The thickness of the ice is constantly changing, mainly because the weather is constantly changing too. The ability to support weight depends on the speed of the vehicle, how frequently pressure is exerted on the ice, and continuous areas in use.

Controls in place when working on ice

When working on ice, an organization has to constantly keep track of its controls and implements more effective ones to keep their employees and equipment safe. Before travelling on ice, an operator must know the integrity of the ice cover. They can then determine if the weight the vehicle is bearing is too much or if they’re at a higher or lower speed than required.


Determining the safety of the ice on a continuous basis is the best way to ensure safety. This way, any cracks or damage can be identified and repaired immediately. The weight can accordingly be adjusted to make things safer. Traffic can also be rerouted or suspended during such a time to prevent any accidents.

Emergency preparations

When working with ice, you can never be too prepared. Have a rescue protocol in place in case anyone falls into the water, this includes getting them out safely and preventing hypothermia. Axe, ice chisels, air temperature thermometers, and ice auger are useful tools when working near ice too. Cold water tends to freeze over quickly, and these tools can help you break ice to rescue anyone trapped underneath.

Providing training and knowledge on how to deal with such accidents is crucial. Metro Safety Training provides all kinds of first aid training courses in BC, this includes Standard First Aid, Emergency First Aid, Occupational First Aid, and much more. Contact 604-521-4227 for more information about our courses.