Several decades ago most construction workers never worried about having to work in the winter, they worked 6 to 7 days a week from April to November putting in as many hours a day as they could and when the winter came the jobs stopped. At that point everyone either went on unemployment for the winter or found another job like working as a lift attendant at a ski resort.
That doesn’t apply in today’s construction industry; today’s construction industry is a 365 day year round business. In a world where everyone wants everything right away no one wants to wait until the snow melts to build that house, deck or to start that renovation. With these winter work months comes a whole new set of safety issues. Working in the winter can be dangerous so workers have to take special care when working during them.
There are certain things that you have to do when working in the winter on a construction site so that it’s safe for the workers. Here is a brief list of them;
• Plow snow from driveways, parking lots and staging areas.
• Clean up of the jobsite must be done extremely well because anything left outside will become buried in snow and can be either tripped over by a worker or run into by the snow removal equipment.
• All work areas must be properly cleaned of all snow and if ice is present then it must salted or sanded to help with footing.
• Gangways and planks leading into and out of work area must be either kept clean of ice and snow or rotated into a warm area so that they have the time to melt.
• Any area where there is a significant grade change, hole of any size, trench or other obstruction that will not be seen by the workers once the snow has fallen must be marked in advance.
• There should be a warming station if possible where workers can warm up in cold weather and also warm up tools and products such as spray foam or paints that require it before application.
• Heat must be kept on in any area where there is water use, freezing pipes or busting ones can be dangerous especially around electrical cords.
• You must ensure that all extension cords are rated to be outside and can get wet; snow will melt and can create electrical shock hazard.
• You must have a policy that at a certain temperature or a certain weather condition workers are to stop work and retire for the day. There is nothing more dangerous than working outside when you can’t see or can end up with frost bite.
• You must set a policy for temperature and weather for the use of some or all your electrical tools. Electrical tools can become a safety problem if they become too wet from snow or if the temperature is so cold that the plastic casings become brittle.
• An effort must be made to protect the inside of the foundation from freezing in cold temperatures, this can cause structural damage.
Workers must also watch their own safety and even though it is winter they must still follow safety regulations;
• You must continue to wear a hard hat; they make hard hats with ear warmers or insulation in them.
• You must continue to wear safety boots. There is a wide variety of safety footwear that is now completely insulated and built for working outside in the winter.
• Dress appropriately, the best then to do is to layer, this will allow you to remove layers if you start too sweat too much while working.
• Use several pair of gloves, changing gloves half way through the day for a warm dry pair will help ensure that you don’t get frost bite.
• Stop for warming breaks, have a coffee or warm up in the warming station.
• Know when to quit. If you end up wet and it is cold out then you should quit for the day.
• Watch the wind chill; it can be worse than the actual temperature.
• Schedule work that will allow you to work out of the wind or weather, the nicer days can be spent working outside.
• If you become sick take the day off, there’s no faster way to harm yourself then working outside in the winter when you already have a problem.
Remember when working in construction common sense will go a lot farther than anything when it comes to safety. If you feel like you shouldn’t be doing it then maybe you’re right.
Village Builders Inc.