Winter is coming! But all memes aside, if you find yourself working on a construction site over the coming months your days are going to become colder, harder and filled with new dangers. That’s why we’ve taken the time to share some essential winter safety tips for those hardy construction workers among you.
As October and November have already shown us, the weather over the US can get pretty unpredictable this time of year, with early snowfall affecting much of the Midwest and Eastern seaboard around Veterans Day. These arctic blasts have become a regular occurrence during our winters and these freezing conditions can make construction sites extremely hazardous. But, if you follow our safety tips for a winter building site, you’ll be wondering what all the fuss was about come Spring!
Check your site
Before anyone on site gets to work make sure you’ve checked it’s safe. After a heavy winter storm there could be quite a bit of damage on site, look out for downed power lines, fallen trees or scaffolding. It is important that you clear all snow and ice from walkways and working areas, including roofs and ladders. Always keep salt or sand on site to put down when bad weather hits, this will reduce the risk of workers slipping in icy conditions. Ensure everyone takes extra care when moving around site and look out for icicles that might have formed overnight and could become a falling hazard.
Keep an eye on the forecast
We love to talk about the weather, but if you’re managing a site full of construction workers you should be watching it closely too. If another arctic blast is heading your way make sure you have plenty of time to secure your site and get everyone home. On particularly bitter days, keep an eye on your team for signs of frostbite or hypothermia. Get them into a warm place if they look like they’re struggling, which leads us onto our next winter safety tip.
Have a heated break area
Working on a construction site is tough enough without having to battle the elements too. You need to be able to warm up throughout the day which is why there should always be a heated cabin or trailer on site, and it should definitely be stocked up with hot drinks. Even a short five-minute break can revive a cold worker and help them get through the final hours of the day. During these breaks though, you should try and avoid too many stimulants, such as coffee or nicotine, as they can cause you to feel warmer than you actually are.
Wear warm clothing
During those cold winter days, you will undoubtedly spend long periods outside, so it can be a real struggle to keep warm. That’s why proper winter work gear is a must. Having the right clothing will ensure you stay warm, while still maintaining a good range of movement to safely go about your work. The trick is to layer up—and your first layer should always be good moisture wicking thermals. Next, a good flannel shirt and pair of lined work pants should help keep you warm before that all important winter jacket on top.
If at any time your clothes get wet, make sure you take advantage of that heated cabin to get out of them and into some dry ones. Your extremities must be protected, and one of our top winter safety tips for construction workers, is always have a warm pair of gloves, woolly socks and a good hat.
Don’t forget the PPE
While you might be focused on keeping yourself warm, understandably, you cannot forget your personal protective equipment. A winter building site is full of hazards, so it is vital that hard hats are worn at all times—especially with the risk of falling ice and slips. To stop the heat escaping from your head, consider a thermal liner for your hat, as this could make all the difference on a cold day. Your gloves should be chosen to allow enough dexterity to handle tools and machinery—expect to have them on whenever you are outside to reduce the risk of frostbite. Lastly, a pair of hardy non-slip boots with an extra sole will keep you protected from the cold and reduce the risk of slipping. That extra thick pair of woolly socks will ensure your steel-toed boots don’t get too cold either.
Warm up equipment
It’s not only construction workers that suffer in the cold weather, your equipment is also likely to struggle. On heavy machinery, hoses and electrical wires will become brittle in subzero temperatures, so it is important to give them time to warm up to avoid any damage during use. Fluids in engines and hydraulics should always be checked and replaced if they’re not rated for the cold temperatures.
Take particular care with air compressors and pneumatic tools, always drain fluids that might have accumulated in the tanks to avoid it freezing overnight. Another of our top winter safety tips for construction workers is to fire your empty nail guns at 40 PSI in freezing temperatures to warm them up before use.