Working in Winter

Working in Winter

Winter conditions can create a variety of safety challenges and hazards on the worksite. Some of the more common examples include the increase in slip and fall accidents or health risks such as hypothermia. So, with the temperature dropping it's time to think about protecting yourself and your workers from the Winter elements. Below are some tips to keep you and your team safe.

1. Dehydration

We all recognise the importance of keeping a supply of water nearby on Summer days, but staying hydrated in the Winter is just as important as it is during the Summer months. More energy is exerted when working in cold conditions as the body is working hard to keep warm. The extra layers of clothing people wear to stay warm can also dehydrate them surprisingly quickly. The clothing holds the heat in so the body must perspire to cool down. Treat cold days just the same as hot days and make sure workers are aware of dehydration. 

2. Icy Surfaces and Equipment

Just as bridges freeze more quickly than the roads leading to them, scaffolds, ladders, and similar surfaces begin to ice well before ground surfaces. The reason is they are open, elevated, and allow cold air to circulate around them. Early morning dew and rain can turn into ice if temperatures start to drop. Be sure to check that ice hasn't begun to form and either remove it or remove the crew member from the hazard.

3. Personal Protective Equipment

Clothing should be worn in multiple polypropylene, polyester, or merino layers. The air between these layers provides better insulation. The outer layer should be high-vis, rain and windproof, and allow for easy opening and removal.

Exposed areas, such as the head, hands, and feet are just as important as the body. Gloves are an obvious option but beware they can become bulky and affect a worker's handling. Try hand warmers and insulated handles on tools. 

Buy footwear that is well padded, insulated, and made from material like leather so the shoe can breathe.

We all know a great deal of heat is lost through the head. A problem which is compounded by the fact that hard hats do not provide protection against the cold. If a hard hat is needed, wear a tight-fitting beanie made of polypropylene or merino underneath.

4. Plan

To avoid the harsh winter conditions, plan work that is appropriate to the weather. Following the above steps will help to ensure that winter does not slow you and your crew down.

 

This article was originally published in the July-August 2020 issue of Circuit Breaker