Canal labourers faced harsh, dangerous working conditions, with each season bringing its own unique challenges. In the summer, extreme heat and vicious swarms of mosquitoes left workers bloodied, agitated, and even malarial; in the winter, extreme cold and snow brought such discomfort that free supplies of whisky were distributed to encourage men to keep working. Since each lock station was operated by a different private contractor with his own standards for workload, wages, and accommodations, workers often moved around in the hopes of finding an employer who offered better pay for less dangerous work. With such an abundance of cheap labour at their disposal, most contractors got away with offering low wages, gruelling work conditions, and no medical assistance, while charging workers a premium for room and board. Although steam power machines existed at the time and might have been a safer alternative, the abundance of labourers and their willingness to work for low wages made the machines a less desirable option.