Winnipeg police officer suffers serious frostbite while training outdoors

A Winnipeg police officer suffered serious frostbite while training in sub-zero temperatures Friday.

'We are obviously concerned — he's been injured on duty,' Winnipeg Police Association president says

A Winnipeg police officer is recovering from serious frostbite to his hands after an outdoor training exercise Friday. (CBC)

A Winnipeg police officer suffered serious frostbite while training in sub-zero temperatures Friday.

CBC News has learned the fingers on the male officer's right hand were severely frost-bitten during a weapons training course. He also suffered frostbite to the fingertips of his left hand. 

The temperature was below –30 with the windchill during the exercise.

The officer was outside doing the training course for approximately 35 minutes before returning indoors and heading to the hospital shortly after. The severity of his injuries have not been released.

Winnipeg Police Association (WPA) president Moe Sabourin said he was told about the injury by the officer in charge of the union's workplace safety and health committee.
Environment Canada was warning the public about frostbite across a wide section of the Prairies on Friday. (Environment Canada)

"We are obviously concerned. He's been injured on duty — particularly in a training accident," Sabourin said. 

Sabourin said there was not a lot of information available on what happened, but there would be an injury-on-duty report to come. More information is expected early this week, he added.

'In extreme temperatures, there are rules'

Sabourin said there are guidelines to be followed that are designed to prevent incidents like this from happening in the first place.

"Especially in extreme temperatures, there are rules ... under workplace safety and health, about remaining outdoors during both the cold or extreme heat," he said.

"This is, as far as I know, the first sort of situation that has arisen as a result of firearms training, but we obviously want to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Sabourin said he finds it puzzling the incident occurred at the gun range, where there is a heated building on site.

"It's a training exercise, it wasn't any sort of an exigent circumstance where the member is caught out in the middle of nowhere without the ability to warm up."

The officer is expected to submit a worker's compensation form as a result of the injuries he sustained on the job, Sabourin added.

Provincial safety regulations

There are provincial regulations in place meant to ensure workers are safe when on the job outdoors.

"When a workplace or work process exposes a worker to conditions that may create a risk to the worker's safety or health because of heat or cold, an employer must implement safe work procedures."

"And Workplace Safety And Health Regulation 111 (b), the worker [must be] provided with information, instruction and training in the symptoms of thermal stress and the precautions to be taken to avoid injury from thermal stress."

Sabourin reiterated there was not a lot of information yet, but added the WPA would confirm the equipment being issued to the officers was appropriate for the weather and temperature.

With files from CBC's Erin Brohman