On days where temperatures dip to extremely cold levels, many people are likely thankful they aren’t outside working in the frigid air, but others aren’t so fortunate.
“I was out for a while this morning. My eyelashes were starting to freeze,” said Gay Riendeau, who works at the Co-op gas store in Regina’s Grasslands neighbourhood.
She was out for several hours on a bitterly cold Monday morning pumping gas, but not before layering up. It takes her several minutes to put on all of her protective clothing: long underwear, bunny hug, jacket, mitts, toque, and neck warmer, along with boots and ski pants, although on this day Riendeau did not have those last two items on.
For Riendeau, it’s just another day at the office, only hers happens to be outside.
“It’s challenging and you try to keep warm. You just have to keep moving and just do your best. Layer up, make sure you’re dressed warm and just put up with it,” she explained, her mouth muffled somewhat since she was speaking through her neck warmer. “It took me a while to warm up after I did go back in and you just get that chilled feeling for the rest of the day and it just doesn’t go away.”
She recommends staying busy and moving around to help stay warm, that, and taking frequent warm up breaks inside while making sure there’s always hot coffee on.
Battling the elements is also something those working on the new $278 million Mosaic Stadium have to endure. With a tight schedule, construction can’t simply stop on a project of this size and complexity.
“Unfortunately, our project schedules don’t recognize the seasons and so we have to meet our deadlines,” said Patrick Rideout, PCL Construction’s health and safety supervisor at the site.
Like Riendeau at the Co-op, many workers have mastered the art of layering, covering almost every inch of their bodies. Rideout joked that dressing for the cold becomes so routine that you just start sleeping in it.
“Day-to-day when it’s this cold it taxes you. You definitely wish you would stay home in bed, but we carry on,” Rideout admitted.
Right now he said there are roughly 415 workers on site at the stadium, two-thirds get the luxury of working indoors. The rest, including Rideout, are forced to contend with Mother Nature. He tries to put a positive spin on things.
“We can dress for the cold but we can’t dress for the heat. There’s only so much we can take off.”
While employees can bundle up in extra clothing, machines can’t. Cold temperatures can really have an adverse impact on machinery, as it tends to run slower in the cold, if it runs at all. Rideout said certain machines can’t be overexerted in this type of weather because they’re more prone to malfunctions. Equipment generally has a difficult time running anytime it’s below -25 C.
So why do these workers brave the sub-zero temperatures when they could have a warm desk job?
“A big motivator that I know for sure is a lot of pride,” he said. “A lot of the tradespeople here have a lot of pride for what they’re doing, and that’s why they come in every day.”