In the construction industry, there are a number of safety hazards workers need to be aware of to prevent injury. In addition to the safety hazards that are present year round, the winter brings its own set of challenges. During the winter, workers need to be protected from the extreme cold and high winds, as well as snow and ice. To help you minimize construction accidents and injuries this winter, consider the following safety tips.
1. Know the Signs of Winter-Related Injuries and Illness
Winter conditions can expose workers to severe health problems, including hypothermia, frost bite and trench foot. It’s essential to educate your workers and supervisors about these cold-related injuries and illnesses and their warning signs and symptoms. For instance, shivering, clumsiness and lack of coordination, and slurred speech or mumbling are symptoms of hypothermia. If a worker exhibits any signs of illness or injury, emergency help must be called immediately.
2. Be Aware of Weather Forecasts
Keeping an eye on the weather forecasts will prevent you from sending your workers out in dangerous, unfit conditions, such as a blizzard or hail storm. Routinely check the weather through your local weather channel and the National Weather Service, so you know what to expect.
3. Require Workers to Wear the Proper Clothing and Gear
Wearing the right clothing and gear will help workers avoid cold weather-related injuries and illnesses. The required clothing and gear should be based on the temperature, weather conditions, and duration of activity. Workers should wear layers whenever necessary, including an insulating, moisture-wicking base layer and a waterproof outer layer. Workers should also wear insulated, waterproof boots with extreme traction, as well as warm socks and hats, and gloves with grips for the safe handling of equipment. When temperatures drop below -17 degrees, insulated mittens should be worn.
4. Provide a Heated Break Area
It’s important for workers to limit their exposure to extreme cold, snowy, and windy conditions. Provide your workers with a heated break area, where they can warm up and get relief from the elements. Your break area can be a trailer or tent heated with portable temporary heaters. Make sure supervisors know how to properly operate the temporary heaters.
5. Remove Snow and Ice from the Work Site
Before work begins, make sure the site is free of snow and ice than can threat the safety of your workers. Put down salt or sand to melt ice and provide better traction, and remove large pieces of ice to prevent slips, trips and falls.
6. Have Supervisors Inspect the Site
Each day before work resumes, the site supervisor should inspect the site to ensure it’s free of potential hazards. Overnight, a tree may have fallen or ice might have accumulated on the site. These new hazards must be addressed and taken care of before work is resumed.
7. Discourage Workers from Drinking Caffeine
Many construction workers work overnight and turn to coffee to help them get through their shift. However, drinking caffeinated beverages in winter conditions should be avoided. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages can increase workers’ heart rates, making them feel falsely warm. Instead, encourage workers to drink water to stay hydrated or sports-type drinks to replace depleted electrolytes.
With these tips, you are ready to tackle the unique challenges winter brings to the construction industry and help protect your workers from potentially life-threatening accidents and injuries.