Construction sites are dangerous at any time of the year. Worker safety should be a top priority for all employers; however, the protocols to keep workers safe will vary depending on the season. In the wintertime, it is important that construction workers are protected from extreme cold, high winds, slips, and falls. Being proactive with winter safety procedures will significantly lower the inherent risk that is in the construction industry. Here are some tips to prevent the onset of injury and illness while on the job.
Avoid Coffee and Alcohol
Many construction workers use coffee to get going, especially because of the late or early start times. However, those in the industry should recognize the risk that comes with using things like coffee or alcohol, as the increase in heart rate will make workers feel as if they are warmer than they are. It is just as crucial for workers to stay up on how much water they drink in the wintertime. All too often, workers do not drink enough water and while dehydrating themselves on coffee or alcohol.
Plenty of Rest Breaks
All construction workers should be provided with an area to take warm rest breaks. Since the majority of the work is most likely done outside, workers should be given plenty of opportunities to keep warm. This can be a heated trailer or tent with portable heaters. It is a safety standard for workers to be able to escape the cold and other outdoor elements.
Scheduling is a vital component to limit workers’ exposure to harsh weather conditions. Project managers are advised to schedule work outside through the warmest points of the day in the wintertime or schedule workers for shorter time frames to break up large projects. Consider if creating smaller tasks at a time is best.
Require Proper Gear
Adequate safety gear should be mandated in accordance with the project and weather conditions. Are workers provided with the proper gear in extreme cold? Some gear that may be appropriate for cold temperatures include but are not limited to:
- Heavy coats
- Non-slip shoes
Workers should be required to wear clothing that will keep them warm and dry to prevent hypothermia, frostbite, and falling on ice or snow.
Remove Snow and Ice
It is up to the employers, not the employees, to handle snow and ice removal prior to the start of a project. This can be done by spreading sand or salt on icy areas and making sure that all ice has been chipped away. Taking these steps will greatly reduce the chance of slips and falls.
Asses the Site Everyday
Doing a thorough examination of the worksite before each workday begins is vital to the safety of workers. Project managers can survey the area to ensure no new hazards arose while workers were away, such as ice accumulation or fallen power lines and trees.
Inform Workers of Frostbite and Hypothermia Symptoms
Even with the strongest safety practices in place, mishaps still occur. Both project managers and workers need to understand hypothermia and frostbite symptoms to have proper medical attention administered quickly if need be.
Educate Workers on How to Get Help
When workers are involved in an accident or cannot start their vehicle in the wintertime, there can be major consequences. Therefore, it is recommended that workers are well educated on what to do and who they can contact in the event of an emergency.