Winter is an extremely dangerous time of year for all construction related workers. Rapid weather changes, low temperatures, and falling snow and ice represent just a small sampling of the problems workers face on the job each and every day during these frigid months. When unpredictable winter weather hits, make sure your site, team members, and equipment stays safe with these winter safety tips.
- Follow Strict Maintenance Procedures:
Before any equipment gets used or any scaffold gets stepped on, inspect
it to be sure everything is in proper working order. Look for
frozen/jammed parts, if scaffold boards are iced over or slick, there is
no visible damage, etc. Never work on scaffolds outside if the weather
is extremely stormy or windy, which is one of the most common causes for
- Snow & Ice Removal:
Construction sites should be inspected often, but even more so in harsh
winter conditions. Paths should always remain clear and, if icy, kept a
fresh layer of salt sprinkled on them. 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.
- Wear Proper Clothing:
Frostbite is also a major issue in cold working conditions. In the
winter months, it is best to wear non-slip shoes or boots but NEVER wear
snow spikes or chains. If you fall not only could you further hurt
yourself with them, but also a coworker near you. Other necessary
clothing items include gloves, ear/head wear, thermal under garments,
socks, etc. Additionally, have these sorts of clothes on hand in the
construction office in case someone shows up to work ill-prepared for
- 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.
Winter weather is full of uncertainty, and this doesn’t bode well for a
tight work schedule. If possible, strive to reach project milestones
before the worst of the weather descends upon your region. Winter
weather often requires that businesses and contractors find some
flexibility in scheduling so that everyone remains as safe as possible.
Also, 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
- Additional Training:
Winter brings with it chilly winds and harsh conditions that workers
need to be prepared for. Training workers on winter specific safety
issues and what to wear to stay warm is vital to the overall safety of
the site. It’s the supervisor’s job to keep staff trained and ready to
face the elements.
- Inspect the Worksite:
Start your day with an inspection of the site to be sure that all snow
and ice has been eliminated from surfaces where employees will be
passing through or working. Continuously inspect the site throughout the
whole day to ensure that no ice has built on any equipment or scaffold.
Check all heaters and generators to ensure combustible materials are
clear from danger.
- Take Your Time:
It is important to slow down and never rush. If the easy way out is
taken, it usually leads to injuries or accidents. Never sacrifice speed
- Check Your Coverage: If you operate in harsh winter conditions, be sure that all of your insurance policies are up to date and that you are carrying the proper coverages. Construction specific insurance brokers specialize in helping you insure against the unique risks that are inherent in the construction business year round.
For a more thorough overview of cold weather work safety, visit the OSHA site here…