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Cold Weather Safety Tips for Construction Workers

15 Feb 2019, Posted by F.A. in Concrete Facts

During the winter season, performing any laborious task outdoors can turn problematic due to the harshness of the temperature, the slippery terrain, and the human body’s ability to survive in the cold. Construction work is dangerous as is, and the harsh weather conditions, be it hot weather or cold, can have an adverse impact on your team’s progress.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have any set guidelines for working in cold environments, but they have provided a few tips to ensure the safety of your construction workers. Keep reading to learn how to keep workers safe!

Educate Your Employees

As an employer or construction site manager, you should teach your workers how to keep themselves safe during cold weather and avoid cold-related injuries. You can train your employees to be extra careful when operating heavy machinery, or working in less-than-optimum environments during bad weather. Here are some areas in which your staff should be well educated.

Driving and Operating Machinery

Construction work involves heavy machinery and equipment, which may have to be driven to the workplace, under hazardous winter conditions. To reduce the risks involved with driving on snowy roads, the operator must drive slowly and use chained tires.

On the other hand, workers on foot should wear safety jackets at all times so that drivers can see them easily. The training sessions should include instructions on how to handle heavy machinery and vehicles, how to dress appropriately, and how to recognize a threat in snowy conditions.

Using Snow Blowers

Snow blowers are an extremely efficient way of clearing snow from your construction site, but they can also lead to injuries if workers aren’t careful. These machines are prone to jamming when bigger blocks of snow, stone, or mud get sucked into the blower. In such circumstances, workers may attempt to clear out these jams while the blower is still on, leading to major injuries or even electrocution.

Training sessions should highlight, and revise, the proper handling of all equipment to reduce accidents.

Working at Heights

Although workers are at risk for height-related injuries all year-round, snow and ice increase this risk tenfold, by making surfaces much more slippery. Additionally, not only does melting ice reduce the amount of friction, but may also drip and form sharp icicles. You can increase the awareness of these potential hazards in workers through rigorous and continuous training sessions.

Staying Hydrated

Drinking water is essential when undertaking intensive work, with winters being no exception to the rule. With the help of training sessions, you can teach your workers the importance of staying hydrated, along with its advantages and disadvantages; some of which are an increase in efficiency, and on the extreme end, falling prey to hypothermia.

Monitor Weather Reports

Apart from training meetings, as a construction manager, you need to pay attention to weather advisory stations. They can warn you about incoming storms or strong winds beforehand, so that you can organize your work schedule accordingly.

Some important weather advisories include:

  • Blizzard warning
  • Wind chill warning
  • Winder storm warning

Providing Warm Break Areas

According to the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, workers should be given frequent breaks over the duration of their shift in a warm area with warm beverages. This could include a trailer or tent installed with portable heaters, where workers can warm themselves up.

Staff should be encouraged to change out of their wet clothes as soon as possible to avoid risking frostbite or hypothermia.

Minimizing the Workload Outside

Freezing temperatures can cause your skin and internal body temperatures to drop drastically, resulting in serious illnesses, and permanent tissue damage or even death.

As a manager or supervisor, you should strive to reduce the time your workers are exposed to the cold as much as possible. This includes providing an enclosed work environment for workers, or running shorter shifts when an enclosure isn’t possible.

Providing the Right Tools

Managers and supervisors must ensure that proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is given to all workers, and they are worn at all times. Although this equipment can get bulky and in turn, limit mobility, it provides the protection necessary to work in subfreezing temperatures.

The most important here is the provision of warm clothes that can greatly reduce the risk of cold-related illnesses, and increase the time a worker can spend outside. PPE includes:

  • Hard Hat
  • Insulated Gloves
  • Bomber Jackets
  • Waterproof winter jackets
  • Waterproof safety shoes

OSHA recommends wearing at least 3 layers of loose-fit clothing to provide the necessary insulation from the outer wind. Of the three, two layers should consist of a moisture-wicking base layer, with an external waterproof layer, along with a woolen cap; to minimize the amount of body heat lost.

Inspecting Work Environment

While many hazards are apparent and recognizable, most of them must be inspected in order to be realized. OSHA recommends that a team of inspectors examine the worksite and all related equipment before each shift. Any threats or discrepancies found can be rectified before work begins. Work site dangers include fallen or damaged power lines, slippery surfaces, loose walkways, clogged or leaking exhaust systems, and more. Additionally, a first aid kit should be made present around each area for emergencies.

Even after carefully analyzing all these needs, the nature of a construction job is such that there is bound to be some level of danger. To manage, and continue a seamless workflow, no matter the temperature outside, you will need to ensure that your personnel’s workspace is safe and appropriate, and that they have the right equipment. Now that you know how to protect your workers on the job, the next step is getting the right materials for the job. Contact Forming America for all of your concrete project needs.