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How Long Should Employees Be Allowed to Work in Walk-In Freezers?

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Employees Should Take Regular Breaks

Many jobs involve the workers needing to use a walk-in freezer, most of which are in the food industry where there is a warehouse. These freezers are chilled to an average of -20 degrees C, which is -4 degrees F. This is the same temperature as the ice clouds of Saturn, and can therefore be detrimental to the health of workers if they stay in for too long, leading to hypothermia or breathing difficulties. Any longer than an hour in a freezer, or when body parts in the protective clothing of hat, gloves and jacket provided begin to feel numb, is when an employee should take a break. “The Practical Handbook of Warehousing” suggests a 10-minute break every hour, which it says will also help productivity. As long workers take regular breaks where they are allowed to relax in a moderate temperature, they can remain healthy working in a freezer all day.

There Is No Set Regulation

Neither the U.S. nor the U.K. health and safety bodies have implemented strict regulations on how long a worker should stay in a freezer before taking a break. While it is generally accepted that when the cold is no longer bearable for a worker, or a set time is reached, workers in cool-rooms or freezers should take breaks for safety reasons, there is no set guideline on how often these breaks should occur, or for how long.
The British Health and Safety Executive simply says that heated rest facilities should be provided, and that staff should be allowed access to them.

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Bottom Line

While it is obvious that workers need to take breaks while working in walk-in freezers, at the time of publication there is no set guideline to how long employees can work in freezers without a break. The suggested time for both the health of the employee, and to help productivity, is a break every hour; if you're crafting a policy for working in a freezer, doublecheck your state's safety and health regulations as well as the federal OSHA regulations for recent developments in this area.

About the Author

Ishbel Macleod has been writing professionally since 2005. Her articles have been published in Scottish newspapers such as "The Glasgow Herald," and she had a short story published in "Company" magazine after winning a writing contest. She graduated with a first-class honors Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Glasgow Caledonian University.

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