The winter is one of the most precarious times of year for construction work but, of course, progress and repairs don’t stop just because the sky decides to drop some frozen water on everything. For the vast majority of construction crews, it has to get pretty cold and the snow quite deep before the foreman are really convinced the work has to stop. After all, there are deadlines to meet, paychecks to collect, and work to be completed. While this hearty attitude is great for your bottom line, it also puts everyone at much greater risk for injuries like slips and falls, dropping cold or slippery items, and contracting frostbite from staying out in the cold too long.
Here are the top seven winter construction safety tips.
1) Maintain Awareness of the Cold
It has become a fallacy that over time as days get warmer that this must be universally true. Days can get colder after dawn and wind speed can increase the chill. Stay aware of exactly how cold it is for your guys on the worksite and make sure everyone else is paying attention as well. If anyone allows themselves to get too cold, this can lead to stiff fingers and clumsiness followed by frostbite and hypothermia. Your number one priority is to ensure everyone remains warm.
2) Warm Break Room and Shorter Shifts
Create a warm and dry place to sit down and heat up, preferably large enough for everyone on the job if the weather gets bad and you need to wait out a flurry. It’s very important that your team regain their correct body temperature regularly which means shorter shifts out in the cold with frequent retreats to a warm break room where they can hang up coats and warm up their fingers.
3) Coffee and Alcohol Offer ‘False Heat’
Most construction sites offer coffee for a nice hot drink and your guys will want it, but you really should offer a non-caffeine alternative. Caffeine (and alcohol) speeds up the heart rate and creates a false sense of warmth while allowing easier hypothermia and frostbite. Instead, try offering hot cider and herbal tea to keep your team warm and hydrated.
4) Require Warm, Heavy Gear
Do not, under any circumstances, let one of your guys go into a serious winter worksite with lightweight Personal protective equipment. When the temperature is low and there is ice everywhere, a jacket and thin gloves simply aren’t enough. Make sure everyone has thick socks, boots, heavy jackets, lined leather gloves, and ample protection for the head and ears.
5) Dry Off Immediately
If anyone gets wet for any reason, they should retreat to the warm break room and dry off and warm up immediately in order to avoid hypothermia. Have a few large blankets available and advise the guys to have a change of clothing just in case someone gets covered in a falling pile of snow and winds up soaked and freezing.
6) Clear the Snow and Ice
Before you start each day on a snowy worksite, make sure to clear the entire work area and reinforce it for traction. You can put down large rubber mats, use road salt, or even sprinkle a little kitty litter around to keep your pathways clean and slip-free. This ensures that no one comes across a patch of unexpected ice later on when their hands are full.
7) Prepare Your First Aid Kit for Frostbite
If frostbite happens, you want to be ready for it right away. You will need warm water and a bowl, bandages, hot beverages, and over the counter pain medication as well as a quick line to a local hospital just in case the frostbite is serious or there are signs of hypothermia. Pack your first aid kit and break room accordingly, then train the team to know the signs in themselves and others and to seek treatment immediately.
The biggest risk when working on construction projects in the winter is the possibility of frostbite or hypothermia, followed by the risk of slipping on something icy. If you go out of your way to prepare for these eventualities, your team should be safe and everyone can enjoy running back into the break room regularly for cups of cider and a quick finger check.
For more information on Process controls that will aid in prevention and elimination of construction injuries during winter, please contact Sustainable Certification Pty Ltd