Preparing for Wintertime Worksite Risks

Construction is a challenging business in itself. Keeping to timelines and managing contractors isn’t always easy, but when you throw winter into the mix, new complications arise. Some construction projects take a break during harsh winters but most can’t afford to and are forced to make provisions to deal with inclement weather and increased safety risks. Here are some tips for preparing for worksite risks during the winter.

Safety Training

Winter brings with it chilly winds and harsh conditions that workers need to be prepared for.  What was proper attire in August is likely going to result in frostbite and a trip to the emergency room in January.   When temperatures drop and workers are exposed to reduced temperatures combined with damp from perspiration, they can suffer from what is called “cold stress”.  According to OSHA:  “When the body is unable to warm itself, serious cold-related illnesses and injuries may occur, and permanent tissue damage and death may result. Types of cold stress include: trench foot, frostbite, and hypothermia.”

Training workers on wearing the rights kinds of layers to work and the proper footwear for safety.   Additionally, have these sorts of clothes on hand in the construction office in case someone shows up to work ill-prepared for the elements.  Schedule work during the warmest parts of the day and allow for short warm-up breaks so that workers can re-energize before returning to the elements.

Falls are also more likely to occur in icy conditions.  As you review your insurance and risk management guidelines, safety netting and fall arrest systems should be adjusted for winter conditions.  Encourage workers to keep first aid kits nearby, as well as extra blankets and other extreme weather gear.

Snow and Ice Removal

Construction sites should be inspected often, but much more so in harsh conditions that may make them more dangerous.   Paths should always remain clear and, if icy, kept a fresh layer of salt sprinkled on them.  When snow is cleared, it can create banks, and you don’t want those to produce even more obstacles on your job site.  Be sure that snow isn’t piled so high that it isn’t obstructing your view of important areas of your site.  Take care to remove any icicles that could pose a hazard or rope off areas underneath them if they can’t be removed.

Use Proper Heating Elements

Heat is crucial during the winter, but it is also dangerous.   Portable heaters can be used in some instances, but they can also create a hazard if not managed properly.  Supervisors should be sure that all heaters used are properly inspected and that employees are trained on the proper use of heaters and generators.  Propane tanks can also pose extra risks during the winter.  Tanks should be placed on stable surfaces, and they always need to be secured properly.

Scheduling

Winter weather is full of uncertainty, and this doesn’t bode well for a tight construction schedule.  If possible, strive to reach project milestones before the worst of the weather descends upon your region.  If you can have the external structures completed and be ready for internal project completion, all the better.  Regardless, winter weather often requires that businesses and contractors find some flexibility in scheduling so that everyone remains as safe as possible.

Check Insurance Coverage

If you are going to continue to operate in harsh conditions, be sure that all of your insurance policies are up to date and that you are carrying the proper coverages. Construction insurance companies specialize in helping builders to insure against the particular risks that are inherent in the construction business. If someone is injured on your site as a result of your work, you will want to be sure that you have adequate construction liability insurance on your side. The insurance and risk management specialist with your carrier will be able to help you assess your situation and your particular needs.

Winter can be frustrating for those who have to deal with the elements.  In construction, it can actually be dangerous as well, leading to injuries and even death.  Always put safety first, inspect your site, and be sure that OSHA regulations are being followed at all times.  As winter approaches, double-check your insurance coverages and ask for a risk management assessment if in any doubt.

Work with the construction insurance experts at Allied Insurance to make sure you’re fully protected. Our solutions-driven approach to construction coverage ensures that you bottom line and liability are protected should an accident occur. Discover how Allied Insurance can help you reduce risks and drive efficiency forward by contacting an agent today!

*Allied does not deem this blog entry as a complete and thorough listing or overview of the above topic, and does not recommend it be primarily relied on. It only highlights some common issues and resolutions. For a thorough overview, please contact Allied’s Risk Engineering Division.