In the construction industry, safety requirements go with the territory. However, winter brings additional challenges and risks to the job. Construction projects can’t simply shut down during inclement weather. Yet, your contract should include safety rules and provisions for your workers. Therefore, it’s essential to take extra precautions during the winter months to minimize construction accidents and cold weather injuries. Use these tips to ensure your job site stays safe during the winter.
1. Inspect and Clear Job Sites
Winter brings high winds, freezing rain, snow, and ice. This can lead to downed power lines and debris littering your job site. Start each day with a walkthrough of the site to note and clear hazardous materials. Before beginning work, clear snow and ice from walking and working surfaces, remove icicles, and clear away any fallen branches or other debris.
2. Know the Signs of Weather-Related Injuries and Illness
Working in extreme cold can expose workers to dangerous health issues and injuries. Educate your teams about cold-related illnesses and injuries. Ensure that all workers and supervisors know the signs of frostbite, trench foot, and hypothermia. Create a specific protocol to respond if an emergency arises and ensure emergency personnel will be able to access the worksite.
3. Provide a Heated Break Area
Workers expend more energy when working in cold weather to keep their bodies at optimal temperatures. When working in freezing temps, it’s essential to limit exposure to the elements with frequent breaks in warm areas. A heated tent, trailer, or indoor area can be used for breaks, and to change out of wet clothing. Ensure that the area is properly vented and CO sensors are placed in the area to monitor for carbon monoxide exposure.
4. Require Workers to Wear the Proper Clothing and GearWinter workwear should be water and windproof and cover as much skin as possible. Winter clothing should include layers, a waterproof outer layer, hat, gloves, warm socks, waterproof boots, and face covering. Take extra steps to ensure protection against injuries with essential personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes hard hat use at all times and fall arrest systems adjusted to fit properly over winter clothing. Keep extra safety gear and warm weather accessories on hand in case personal items are forgotten or lost.
5. Use Proper Cold Weather Procedure for Equipment & Tools
Heavy equipment often needs to be warmed up before use in frigid temperatures. Electrical wires, hoses, and fluids are also affected by cold weather. Make sure engine and hydraulic oils are rated for the temperatures you’re experiencing and change fluids as needed. Ensure wires and hoses are warm before using equipment to avoid damage. When possible, ensure workers have access to equipment with an enclosed cab to avoid exposure to extreme cold and wet weather.
6. Put Emergency Supplies in Company Vehicles
Winter weather can change rapidly, and it’s essential to be prepared for the worst Mother Nature has to offer. Make sure work trucks and vehicles are equipped with winter weather emergency kits that include an ice scraper, shovel, water, non-perishable snacks, emergency flares, tow straps, and a backup cell phone battery. Other helpful items to include are cat litter, salt, or sand. Consider providing materials or a complete list for workers who drive their personal vehicles to the site.
7. Monitor the Forecast
Winter weather can change quickly. You don’t want a storm to sneak up on your crew and leave them stranded at a worksite. Check the weather forecast frequently to determine if temperatures are falling quickly or significant snow or hail may occur. When weather is unpredictable, ensure you stay ahead of the forecast so you can provide workers with enough time to get home if a storm hits.
Ready to organize your subcontractor compliance better?
Safety and compliance are major parts of ensuring a job goes smoothly. But when the weather turns inclement, this becomes even more difficult. With Flashtract, you can at least be sure that all of your subcontractor teams have the proper safety training and documentation.