If you are in charge of construction workers who need to keep working outdoors through a cold winter, you need to keep a close eye on their safety.
When the temperature falls, and especially when snow and ice appear, how a construction worker approaches daily tasks must change. The worst thing you can do is ignore the weather, assuming instead that workers just need to throw on a warm coat and continue working as they have been. Cold weather is a legitimate danger that needs to be taken seriously.
What follows are some general tips and guidelines you can use to help keep your construction workers safe as they work through cold and snow.
Make sure workers have the necessary personal gear for staying warm:
- A knit cap, balaclava or ski mask
- A warm, waterproof coat
- Waterproof coveralls or bib overalls
- Insulated work gloves or (even better) mittens
- Waterproof work boots with good traction
Construction workers should also avoid caffeine and tobacco before and during their shifts. Both of these substances can narrow blood vessels, which limits the amount of heat that reaches the extremities.
Though it won’t always be possible, try to schedule work during the warmest parts of the day to get the most out of what little heat Mother Nature offers. Beyond that, you can help your employees stay more comfortable by following these suggestions:
- Try to shield the worksite from wind.
- Keep a warm, enclosed space available to give workers a place to get warm.
- Run a kerosene or oil heater or other source of warmth at the job site.
Proper safety training
All workers should be properly trained in cold-weather safety. These aspects in particular should be top-of-mind for you and your employees:
- Never let someone work alone.
- A cell phone or radio handset should always be nearby.
- The body has to work harder to maintain its internal temperature when it’s cold outside, so keep it hydrated and take a break whenever you start to feel worn down.
- Everyone on the site should know and recognize the signs and symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia.
- If people are working at height, all walkways and ladders should be checked for ice at the beginning of a shift. If there’s any sign of freezing, spread salt and sand or remove workers from the area.
- Institute a mandatory end-of-shift checkout procedure to ensure that all workers are accounted for and healthy at the end of the shift.
Hundreds of thousands of working days are lost every year to work-related illness and injury. Put worker safety at the top of your priorities this winter to help all your construction workers make it through the season healthy, whole and happy.