13 Winter Weather Safety Tips For Construction Workers

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13 Winter Weather Safety Tips For Construction Workers

Winter is welcomed with ease after working in blazing summer. Nevertheless, winter tide brings new perturb. It can be extremely menacing to construction workers to do their job in winter. Peculiarly, for the workers in the Mid-Atlantic region where temperature rises and drops unexpectedly. This melting and refreezing result in very slippery conditions. Keeping in view, these problems construction workers must know to safeguard themselves.

Fortunately, you can keep up your construction business even during the frosty conditions. In this article, you will be able to obtain the important know-how of winter construction safety. From the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) winter safety tips to construction worker winter-wear, we will cover the basics so you and your workers can relish a secure and productive season.

OSHA Cold Weather Safety Regulations: OSHA lack set standards for employee safety in winter. Even if there are no OSHA rules for working in winter, some clever tips are recommended: 

Training: Employees should have the basic knowledge to circumvent cold weather-related problems like frostbite and trench foot, which is the employer's responsibility. The training may comprise of proper clothing and hazard recognition.

Monitoring: Both employers and workers should avoid severe illness by keeping a close eye on their physical conditions. Not only themselves, but they should also take care of each other.

Scheduling frequent breaks: Employers are advised to arrange periodically, short breaks all round the day to warm up.

Scheduling work in the afternoon: Employers should plan work for the warmest part of the day and avoid planning work during frosting weather conditions. 

Working in pairs: Buddy system should be implied so that workers can help each other when needed.

Providing beverages: workers should be provided with timely warm and sweet drinks like hot chocolate or decaffeinated tea.

Clearing snow and ice: Employers must remove snow and ice from pathways and work surfaces to avoid trips and falls. If this is impossible, employees should have the training to walk on snow by taking small steps and walking slowly. Managers are also advised to highlight the importance of suitable shoes.

Using engineering controls: workers should be provided with heaters and shield to avoid wind in work areas and keep workers warm.

Preventing falls from elevated surfaces: Employers should circumvent planning work on elevated surfaces and roofs. Nevertheless, if this is inevitable, employers ought to provide fall protection tools and training. Furthermore, they are advised to make sure ladders are clear of ice and snow and safely in place. Lastly, workers should be cautioned to work carefully when working next to power lines.

Providing the right tools: Employers should ensure workers have all equipment to perform their jobs perfectly and safely in cold weather.

It is particularly important to mention that OSHA requires employers to safeguard workers from known hazards resulting in injury or death. It is a good idea to revise OSHA safety tips year-round.

AVOIDING DANGERS OF WORKING CONSTRUCTION IN THE WINTER

No doubt, winter could prove to be a treacherous time of the year for everyone. Especially construction workers are at high risk of winter-related dangers. With high skill and proper preparation, a construction squad can stay safe and fecund in the cold weather. The first and foremost step to winter construction safety has enough knowledge to identify hazards before they bring about harm. Listed here are the top perils to look out for when working construction in the cold weather.

1. Driving - Winter driving could prove to be highly dangerous. It is claimed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that 24% of weather-related accidents happen on slushy or snowy roads. Over 1,300 people die on roads under these circumstances every year, and approximately 900 people die during snowfall.

Construction workers are at high risk as they must drive in extreme winter conditions. Let us suppose, and a heavy equipment operator might slip on ice in a workplace or lose control and hit a worker. Workers are always advised to wear high visibility winter jackets so other workers can see them easily. Must use signage or cones to safeguard workers. 

Employers need to train their employees to handle equipment and vehicles in snowy conditions. Employees should also have information to audit vehicles every day before work and acknowledge hazards related to driving.

2. Cold Stress - Cold stress can equally affect you even if you are not living in Antarctica. In temperatures like 50s F or below a condition known as hypothermia can rush. It will be more favorable to stress if it's raining in the cold. Cold stress happens when heat swiftly leaves the body and can cause illness or injury. A worker who is working outdoors is at risk of cold stress during cold conditions. Here are some cold stresses:

Trench foot: It is a non-freezing injury. It can happen in temperatures like 60 F. feet dissipate heat 25X faster when damp, injury happens when feet are exhibited to damp and cold conditions for extended periods. Redness of skin, pain, swelling, tingling, blisters, leg cramps, and numbness are Trench's foot symptoms. 

Frostbite: in this condition, skin freezes and later cause permanent damage. Redness of skin followed by grey or white patches, tingling, loss of feeling, aching, hardening of the affected part and possibly blisters are some symptoms of Frostbite. Mostly affected parts are toes, fingers, nose-tips and earlobes. Under-dressed worker or someone having bad circulation is at high risk for Frostbite.

Hypothermia: When the body's temperature drops from 98.6 F to 95 F or less, there are chances for hypothermia to occur. When exposure to cold is more extended periods for workers, their body dissipates heat swiftly and uses all stored energy of the body, which eventually causes hypothermia. Mild symptoms are unmanageable trembling and eventually result in loss of coordination, confusion, slurred speech, reduced heart rate and breathing. Severe conditions can cause unconsciousness and eventually, death.

3. Shoveling snow - Many of us are frightened of shoveling snow as it is an exhausting job and puts enormous stress on the body. Employees can harm themselves while clearing surfaces if they are not precautious. Shoveling snow can result in back injuries, exhaustion, dehydration or even a heart attack.

Every year, approximately 11,000 youngsters are admitted to the hospital because of shovelling snow. To avoid injury, workers should take periodic breaks, push the snow and follow proper lifting techniques. They are advised to warm-up before shoveling.

4. Using snowblowers - Using snowblowers makes snow removal easier instead of shoveling, resulting in injuries such as electrocution or lacerations if workers are careless. Most injuries occur when workers try to clear out a jam in a snowblower without turning it off. Managers should prompt workers to turn a snowblower off before clearing a jam consistently, and instead of using their hand, use a stick to remove material from the snowblower.

5. Working from a height - Construction workers are always at high risk of height-related accidents year-round. Also, snow and ice, making surfaces slippery, rise the risk of downfall. Snow can conceal serrated objects and other debris. Workers should be aware of potential hazards like covered wires and structurally damaged rooftops.

Construction workers and employers can cope with winter work's safety challenges and keep things smooth by staying active, looking for hazards, and keeping the tips below in mind.

6. Wear cold weather construction gear -The most efficient way to keep yourself safe from winter injuries is to wear the right clothes. Knox FRC, Inc. offers high-quality winter clothing to keep construction workers warm at the workplace. Wearing the described items is highly recommended for maximum protection against cold winter air and snow:

Hard hat with liners: Workers are advised to wear hard hats to cushion them from strokes and head injuries if they slip and fall. Liners confine heat and keep the body warm. Head, if left uncovered, dissipates up to 40% of the body heat.

Gloves: When working in winters, the body part, which is more susceptible to frostbite, are hands. Specially made gloves are one of the basic needs of construction workers. Workers prefer gloves that allow them to manage equipment effortlessly as well as protect hands from cold.

Bomber jacket: To save heat, a solid bomber jacket is used which also provide outstanding visibility.

Waterproof winter jacket: A waterproof cold weather jacket is crucial to prevent cold stress and stay cosy in winter. Workers need to keep themselves dry as the wet body loses heat swiftly.

Waterproof boots: Workers are advised to wear slip-resistance waterproof boots like D.E. Gemmill's Bates Durashock Gore-Tex Boots and double up on shock layers, to protect themselves frostbite and other injuries. Workers should not wear cold steel tip boots in cold conditions. Workers should use waterproof boots as damp feet are the leading cause of frostbite.

According to OSHA recommendation, workers should wear at least three layers of loose-fitting clothing 1) an inner-most layer of wool, silk or polypropylene to prevent moisture 2) a medial layer of wool or polypropylene to provide insulation 3) an outermost layer to protect from wind and rain and allows ventilation. 

7. Prepare for freezing effects on work - Construction workers should have accurate information about the effects of freezing and thawing when at the work-area. Temperature changes may lead to dangerously slimy roofs, decks and other surfaces. On different surfaces, ice frequently forms after snow melts and refreezes again.

Like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), few roof materials are hazardous to walk on in slimy conditions. Employers and employees must evaluate the condition and schedule accordingly to prevent mishaps and accidents. 

8. Inspect worksites - According to a European study in 1991, decisions made before the beginning of work are the leading cause of 60 percent of fatalities. Managers are advised to examine worksite before each shift to avoid hazards related to slippery floors or fallen power lines. First aid kits and warm break-areas should be in the vicinity.

All hazards are not visible. Underneath the snow, there can be dangerous sharp objects and other debris. Managers are advised to look at each task and keep the following questions in mind:

  • What can go wrong?
  • How could it occur?
  • What other factors may result in an accident?
  • How many are the chances of an accident?
  • What is out-turn?

9. Inspect Work Vehicles - Cold conditions affect all vehicles and equipment, so examine every part before use. To avoid equipment damage, warm up it before use. According to OSHA recommendations, check the following factors:

  • Brakes and levels of brake oil.
  • Levels of cooling system.
  • Battery charge.
  • Alternator belt condition.
  • Clean electrical connections.
  • Engine.
  • Leak-free exhaust system.
  • Tires have proper tread depth and are in good condition.
  • Appropriate levels of oil.
  • All lights, defrosters and windshield wipers are clear, clean and in good condition.

Workers are advised to circumvent equipment that does not have an enclosed cab. Emergency kits should be present in all vehicles, including sleeping bags, flares, water and scrapers.

10. Look out for cold weather health conditions - Workers should have enough knowledge to recognize the signs and symptoms of winter health conditions. If workers are aware of what to look for, they will know when to get help. Employers should also surveil employees, mainly those at risk for cold stress. Risk factors for cold stress are hypertension, hypothyroidism and diabetes.

11. Take brakes in heated areas - There should be a low exposure of workers to cold as possible.  Employers are advised to arrange a warm area like a trailer or tent to take periodic breaks and warm up. Managers should also whip-up workers to change damp clothes and drink warm beverages in a cosy area. Also, Break time is an ideal opportunity to check for signs of frostbite or hypothermia. Employers and workers are always advised to use heating devices carefully.

12. Stay hydrated - Without exception, keeping yourself hydrated is always essential. Employees re advised to drink hot beverages or water and refrain from coffee or anything with caffeine or alcohol. Besides a warm coffee cup feels excellent in winter, caffeine is a diuretic, resulting in loss of water and increases dehydration. Dehydration may eventually cause hypothermia. Alcohol accelerates heat loss, so, avoid it. Workers suffering from hypothermia are advised to drink warm sugar water.

13. Monitor weather reports closely - Employers should pay attention to wind chill advisories to prevent cold stress in workers. They should also listen to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for continuous weather information. Given below are some essential terms to help with planning:

Blizzard warning: When the wind is blowing at 35 mph, and low visibility due to snow continues for at least three hours, a blizzard warning is issued.

Wind chill advisory: Issued when more prolonged exposure can cause hazards.

Wind chill warning: Issued when some minutes of exposure can result in hazards.

Winter storm warning: Issued when heavy snow, freezing rain or sleet is happening or expected. They are commonly issued 12 to 24 hours earlier.

Winter storm watch: Apprise a possible blizzard or heavy snow, usually issued 12 to 48 hours before the storm.

Winter weather advisories: Take precautions to avoid dangerous situations, which may be the result of amassed snow, ice, sleet or freezing rain.

Employers should listen to the NOAA weather radio and refer to the chart developed by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. This chart provides recommendations for planning breaks within a 4-hour shift.

Let us suppose, the wind is blowing at five mph and the temperature is negative 35 to 39 F, in this condition, workers need to take five breaks over a four-hour shift and work less than 30 minutes at a time. At a similar temperature with ten mph wind speed, it is advised not to do non-emergency work. Contrarily, employees can work nearly double as long — 55 minutes — in 5 mph wind speed if the temperature is negative 25 to 29 F and only require three breaks in a four-hour shift as it's clear that wind makes a huge difference when it comes to easiness and safety. So, even though the Mid-Atlantic region seldom dips below zero, employers must keep in mind the need for periodic breaks.


2 comments

  • The Knox Team

    Stay warm brother!

  • Ernest Wilson

    Thanks for the tip! Awesome article! ✌🏻

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