Whether they’re doing important repairs in the middle of a blizzard or working on a new construction during dangerously low temperatures, construction workers need to wear the proper protective clothing during the winter.
To be fair, employees should always be able to communicate with each other, use functional equipment and be prepared in the event of an accident, no matter what time of year. There’s also an obvious difference in hazard levels depending on the environment where the project takes place.
Take these steps during the winter for safe construction.Take these steps during the winter for safe construction. At the same time, it may be worth reviewing the following tips no matter what the current weather is, in case conditions take a turn for the worst. Here are some basic do’s and don’ts for construction professionals to follow during the colder months.
Do: Be cautious around downed power lines
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration mentions this in a list of winter weather guidelines, noting that snowy environments could make live wires even more dangerous than they are normally.
“A major hazard is snow, because the moisture can reduce the insulation value of protective equipment, and could cause electrocution,” OSHA explained. “In these conditions de-energized work is safer, but if energized work must be done, qualified workers and supervisors must first do a hazard analysis that includes evaluating the weather conditions and identifying how to safely do the job.”
Don’t: Use equipment unsuitable for the weather
The tools workers employ in winter conditions need to be specifically approved for seasonal use. Assuming that a tool fit for warm weather use is equally viable in cold or snow could lead to a possible hazard, as can using any of this equipment incorrectly.
In general, it may be best to exercise caution before work begins and thoroughly check equipment during an assessment. Tools that are verified for outdoor winter work still need to be in good enough condition to function.
Do: Wear insulated gear
From head to toe, workers can look for apparel that retains body heat and keeps them comfortable. Insulated Gloves, scarves, socks, and coveralls with thermal protection can all be useful, as can boots and helmets with the right insulation.
Make sure that all of these articles don’t restrict the worker’s movement, though. Gloves and scarves in particular need to give the wearer enough mobility to do their job. Employers can supply heaters, too, provided they use them correctly.
Don’t: Work too long without breaks
Even with protection, workers shouldn’t spend too much time exposed to the elements. Managers should take precautions to keep workers warm and in good health, such as breaks in a well-heated space to recover.
OSHA also advises that employees have warm (non-alcoholic) beverages on hand and learn to recognize the symptoms of conditions like frostbite. Drinking water is another necessity, especially when employees are wearing a large amount of heavy clothing. Another way to reduce the effects of the cold is to plan ahead and schedule projects during times when the weather will be the warmest.
Do: Keep walkways safe
Move slowly when surfaces are icy, and wear boots with treads to reduce the chance of losing a grip and falling. Sanding or salting slippery patches also helps with traction and get make it easier for crews to make it through high-traffic areas.
Don’t: Let snow pile up too high
Clear walkways of snow and ice as well, especially if it’s still snowing during a construction period. Although workers may have to focus on the job to get things done quickly, it’s a mistake to ignore active snowfall, which can endanger operations on the ground or in heavy vehicles. Keep the windows on these vehicles clean to make sure that operators get a clear look around if necessary.
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