This is an archived site. For the latest news, visit us at our new home:


JWire logo


Weekly Newspaper Editors:
Welcome to J-Wire. This content in this section is available for publishing by Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers, with attribution to the author. Please write in the comment field where and when the article will be published. To download high-res versions of the photos in this section, please visit our Flickr site here:

 by Eric Bell

While the freezing cold temperatures over the past few weeks have kept people indoors across the province, others across the province haven’t been so lucky.

A booming oil industry and record amounts of construction means many Saskatchewan workers are enduring record-breaking temperatures across the province.


In one instance, on Feb. 28 Regina was -38.4 C, breaking the previous record temperature for that day of -37.2 C recorded in 1972.

Saskatchewan Construction Association president Mark Cooper says that construction companies in Saskatchewan used to stop working from Dec. until March. But  an increase in construction projects means that is no longer the case.

“When it comes to project cycles, most companies work to get into a sort of lock-up phase before winter comes so its mostly inside work,” Cooper said. “That way workers are protected from the wind, which is often the most important factor. But the reality is that we are working year-round now.”

Cooper says most employers in his industry follow temperature guidelines set by Occupational health and safety.

According to the Saskatchewan’s guidelines, temperatures have to reach -43 C with no wind before all non-emergency work is supposed to stop.

“As the wind gets higher, the required temperature to shut down a job site goes down,” said Cooper.  “Most employers follow the guidelines. The reality is that a cold worker is more likely to get injured and more likely to make a mistake. And that’s not the kind of worker you want at a job site. For employers it’s really a focus on safety and making sure that the workers are going to be productive.”

But not all employers follow those temperature guidelines.

Levi Cullum worked at an oil rig outside of Carlyle for the first two months of 2014. Being outdoors for long periods of time, Cullum decided he couldn’t handle it anymore and quit.

“It was cold and it sucked,” Cullum said. “On the rig you have to do this thing where you put your hand in a pipe that’s filled with water. It was something like -49 one night, and I was putting my hand in water and I would pull it out and it would freeze instantly. And then I would have to do it over again.” 

Cullum says his company worked outdoors no matter how far below zero the mercury dropped.

“You work, and if you say it’s too cold they wouldn’t have you back out,” said Cullum.

Working outdoors in extreme temperatures created a work environment that Cullum says was less than desirable.

“Everyone is pretty pissed off and in low spirits, just because nobody can really function in that weather,” said Cullum. “After work I would come in the house and just take a hot shower for an hour, and just sit there under the hot water. Then I would go straight to bed, because when you are on the rig you only have about nine hours of spare time.”

Cooper says the key to working outside in the cold is to make the best of the situation.

“I think there’s sort of a comraderie that comes with it and it all depends on the workplace culture,” said Cooper. “If you have an employer that follows the rules and respects the fact that workers need to be happy, and give them lots of breaks and the hot liquids that they need, then I think people in our industry take a lot of pride in the fact that they work with their hands, that they work outdoors, and that they are tough enough to handle it. With the right work environment it can become a point of pride instead of a point of contention."

For Cullum, neither the pride nor the cash was enough to keep him outdoors during this winter.

“No amount of money could keep me on a drilling rig in the cold,” said Cullum.