Keeping your work site conditions safe and secure over the winter months is essential for your employees health and wellbeing. Employers should ensure a focus is placed on keeping employees onsite safe and warm when the temperature drops. It’s important to know how you can do so, and to be prepared for such conditions. Cold conditions can be extremely detrimental to employee productivity.
During the winter months, you should always keep watch of the weather forecast. Temperature and conditions can change quickly over the course of the day and drastic changes in weather could mean workers are potentially unable to make the journey home safely at the end of the day. The forecast should be monitored throughout the day and action should be taken when required.The jobsite should be inspected thoroughly every day by someone who is knowledgeable to do so. The site should be safe and clear for work. All snow and ice should be cleared from the worksites, along with any debris which may have fallen due to poor weather and strong winds. Appropriate lighting should also be used throughout sites. Learn more about Tower Light solutions from our blog.
Conditions throughout the winter months can be extreme and hazards can occur anywhere. GAP approved PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) should be given to all workers. This could include, but is not limited to waterproof clothing, steel toe boots, gloves and thick socks. In some instances, a hard hat may be required to protect from falling icicles and debris. Clothing should be layered as much as possible while still allowing mobility.
When the ground is icy, safety precautions are vital. Falls are already fairly common on construction sites and slippery conditions only worsens this. Adequate fall protection should be in place across the site and if safety belts are being used these should be tied properly and tightly.
Extended periods of work outside in freezing conditions can easily lead to employees contracting hypothermia or frostbite and so, employers should be aware of the symptoms to look out for. This can include:
- Skin that is cold/prickly and looks red, white, bluish-white, grayish-yellow, purple, brown or ashen. This can depend on the severity and skin colour
- Exhaustion or feeling very tired
- Fumbling hands
- Memory loss
- Slurred speech
Hypothermia and frostbite causes damage to skin and tissue as a result of exposure to freezing temperatures. Both are extremely serious conditions and should any employee appear to be suffering from this, immediate action should be taken.
To avoid extended and unnecessary exposure to the elements, adequate, heated break areas should be provided. Working in the cold will mean workers are exerting more energy than normal and as such will need a place to warm up, have a hot drink and change out of wet clothes during breaks. Use of a dehumidifier can also be useful to remove moisture in the air. The good air circulation will help to ward off any colds infecting the workers and produce clean air.
Electrical tools can also be affected by cold weather. These should be warmed up properly before use onsite and the manufacturer’s instructions should be followed at all times. If in doubt always take extra precautions. Moreover, if plant equipment is being used, when applicable, use plant which is fitted with an enclosed cab, so workers are not exposed to freezing temperatures and harsh weather.
Your site should also be equipped with the necessary equipment to deal with winter weather. This can include shovels, ice scrapers, water, food, blankets and emergency flares. While this list is not exhaustive, it is a good start for keeping your site safe in case of emergency.
Take extra care working on construction sites during the winter months and always err on the side of caution if you are unsure.