Winter Weather Safety Measures

Construction workers who have to work through wind and snow during low and freezing temperatures are at risk for a number of hazards that are particular to these winter months.

Safety measures for these jobs require increased vigilance for site managers. Providing engineering controls such as radiant heaters, scheduling frequent short breaks in warm areas, and proper PPE equipment are some of the basics.

To prevent slips, trips, and falls, employers should clear snow and ice from walking surfaces, and spread deicer, as quickly as possible after a winter storm. When walking on snow or ice is unavoidable workers should be trained to wear footwear that has good traction and insulation (e.g. insulated and water resistant boots or rubber over-shoes with good rubber treads).

Hypothermia occurs when the normal body temperature (98.6°F) drops to less than 95°F. Exposure to cold temperatures causes the body to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up the body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature.

Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or immersion in cold water. Moderate to severe symptoms of hypothermia are loss of coordination, confusion, slurred speech, heart rate/breathing slow, unconsciousness and possibly death.

Another winter hazard includes the downed power lines that occur in frigid weather. Workers should always assume all power lines are energized and stay clear of any downed or damaged power lines. Establish a safe distance from power lines and report any incidents to the responsible authority.

Working from elevated heights also has more danger in wind and snow. OSHA reminds employers to consider options to avoid working on roofs or elevated heights, plan ahead for safe snow removal and must:

  • Provide required fall protection and training when working on the roof or elevated heights
  • Ensure ladders are used safely (e.g. clearing snow and ice from surfaces)
  • Use extreme caution when working near power lines
  • Prevent harmful exposure to cold temperatures and physical exertion

When a project is scheduled, oftentimes the weather doesn’t cooperate with construction timelines. However with the proper safety precautions, winter hazards can be avoided.

For more information, contact our offices at Diversified Safety Services.

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