Top Tips for Construction Site Safety During Winter
Working on a construction site is a hazard no matter the season, but in winter, there are even more potential dangers to think about; even working a full day in the freezing cold is a health hazard that must be countered. To help you get to grips with site safety during winter, we’ve put together some top tips for keeping the weather’s effects to a minimum.
First and foremost, you need to protect against the constant exposure to the weather. Spending prolonged periods of time out in the cold can lead to stiff joints, heavy breathing and fatigue, as well as illnesses and more serious conditions such as bronchitis, frostbite, hypothermia and trench foot. These afflictions inevitably lead to sick days – or weeks in some cases – causing productivity rates to dramatically fall.
To prevent cold-related illnesses and conditions, it is essential that all construction workers wrap up warm and wear the proper protective gear for the job. Although it can feel like gloves and bulky jackets restrict movement and impede work, it is much more important that health is put first, and after a while, working in winter clothing will feel more natural.
Perform early morning checks
Once on site, your first port of call should be to identify whether the weather is causing any problems, or if there is potential for a problem to develop. Pavements and walkways, scaffolding, stairs and ladders can all become very slippery in the winter, and can cause people to fall, leading to broken bones, head injuries or severe bruising. These danger areas should be treated with sand or salt, and everyone on site should be made aware of the dangers. If possible, the best option would be to look for alternative, safe walkways for the team to use.
Also keep an eye out for icicles. Although these might appear firmly attached for now, once the winter sun has rose, they can quickly melt and become unstable. Try and remove them prior to work starting.
Keep an eye on the weather forecast for any outdoor project you are working on, and if rain or snow is predicted, or even just freezing weather, take the appropriate steps to weatherproof the area – tarpaulin, for example, can help keep the area dry and covered.
Make sure there’s adequate lighting
The natural lighting in winter is fleeting at best. If your team can’t adequately see the ground and the area around them, they’re unlikely to spot potential hazards until it is too late. The best way to fight this is to increase the lighting in the area, or improve upon whatever light sources you may be utilising. And remember, just because the lighting is fine in the morning or early afternoon doesn’t mean that it will be later in the day – in winter, it’s not unusual for the sun to set as early as 4pm, when your team are likely to still be on site.
Grit and salt
It is inevitable that the floors, roads and walkways on and surrounding your site are going to become icy and potentially dangerous. To combat this, grit or salt the surfaces to defrost any ice present and prevent more ice from forming.
Take a break
As we’ve previously mentioned, spending prolonged periods of time in the cold can be detrimental to your health, so make sure that you are scheduling regular breaks to head indoors and heat up again. A sit down in a heated cabin with a hot cup of tea can make a world of difference.
Finally, make eating a priority. The cold can be fatiguing, and you’ll find your energy zapped much easier in the cold, so it is important to fuel your body to get through the working day safely.
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