Construction conditions are already risky, and winter weather only exacerbates this issue. For the safety of workers, here are some tips to handle jobs during the snowy season.
Make sure to have a heated break space to give workers a break from the winter weather. When working in cold temperatures, more energy is expended to keep their bodies warm. If you provide a heated tent, trailer, or indoor area, you can help preserve your worker’s energy levels. Encourage workers to take frequent breaks to limit exposure to the elements. Allow them ample time to rest, warm up, change out of wet clothes, and drink warm liquids. The breaks also gives you the opportunity to monitor your workers for signs of hypothermia, frostbite, or fatigue. Discourage the use of nicotine, caffeine, and other stimulants in the winter, as they increase the heart rate and make them feel warmer than their body actually is. If you are using portable heaters in the break areas, there should be proper ventilation and carbon monoxide sensors.
When inclement weather strikes, it is important to check the construction site for hazardous conditions such as downed power lines and trees. Any snow or ice on the walking or working surfaces, including roofs, scaffolding, ladders, and walkways, needs to be cleared before work can begin. Use salt or sand to melt any icy spots and to improve traction for workers. If there is ice that cannot be cleared, be sure to place warning signs in that area and instruct workers to take shorter strides to prevent slips. Icicles can fall and create a dangerous situation, so they need to be removed.
Ensure that workers are wearing the proper personal protective equipment during winter. Hard hats need to be worn as protection from falling objects, like icicles, and to prevent head injuries in the event of slipping on ice. Liners can be used in hard hats to trap heat in and keep workers warm. Gloves and mittens with grips need to be worn at all times, as just touching extremely cold metal with bare hands for one second can cause frostbite. Waterproof boots with non-slip soles will help to keep workers’ feet warm and avoid falls. Multiple warm socks are needed with steel-toed boots, as the metal turns the shoes into a cold sink. Additional layers should be worn, including a moisture-wicking, insulating base layer and an outer layer that is waterproof. Fall arrest systems will have to be adjusted to account for the bulkier clothing, and inspected before use to confirm the straps are not frozen.
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