Winter is a pleasant time because it signifies the coming holiday celebrations. However, as fun as winter may seem, it also brings with it certain risks, especially in construction sites. The combination of cold winds, rain, and ice greatly increase the already dangerous working conditions on-site.
On-Site Dangers in Wintertime
Falls and Trips
Whether it’s wintertime or not, falls and trips make for the bigger percentage of on-site accidents. However, the colder weather increases the risk of falls primarily because of slippery surfaces.
Whenever surfaces get cold, moisture and ice accumulate on scaffolding, walkways, stairs, ladders, platforms, and even truck bed liners. Any fall, regardless of the height of the fall, is dangerous and sometimes fatal.
It is no secret that being exposed to extremely cold temperatures can be hazardous to one’s health. It can cause serious illnesses and permanent bodily damages, and in some extreme cases, even death. Hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot are some of the hazards workers face as they are exposed to the harsh elements.
Construction sites have limited maneuverability as far as vehicular traffic is concerned. But that’s not to say that vehicular accidents don’t happen. Road rules still apply in construction sites and should be strictly observed. You have to consider construction vehicles are far bigger and less agile than smaller cars and trucks.
How to Prevent Accidents On-Site
Provide adequate traction on slippery surfaces.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends workers wear footwear that has provides greater traction on surfaces during wintertime. You can also provide mats, cardboard boxes, surplus carpet, or anything that will create traction and absorb wetness in certain areas.
Minimize your workers’ exposure to freezing temperatures.
While those who aren’t used to freezing temperatures are at higher risk from suffering cold-related health emergencies, it is recommended that you minimize everyone’s exposure to extreme cold.
You can set a schedule for all outdoor work or come up with arrangements that allow your workers to work in shifts. It’s also a good idea to have an enclosed warming area where your workers can spend their breaks and thaw out with some hot drinks.
Keep safety as the number one priority for snow and ice removals on-site.
One of the most obvious ways to prevent slips and falls on-site is to remove ice and snow. However, the act of shoveling and removing snow can be a strenuous activity especially for those who lack cardiovascular activity. The cold weather can constrict arteries which could lead to greater risks of blood pressure increases and heart attacks.
That being said, employees who have a history of heart ailments should not be allowed to engage in any snow shoveling.
Emphasize and reinforce heavy equipment and machinery operation safety.
Some of the most dangerous accidents in construction sites involve heavy equipment and machinery. OSHA recommends that operators and drivers be trained for operating and driving in winter conditions and that all of them have the proper license that certifies they are more than qualified to operate all machinery and equipment.
You need to enforce higher standards as the safety of everyone on-site depends on it.
Enforce stricter implementation of proper dress code and winter gear.
Employees should be required to wear appropriate winter gear on top of the usual safety work gear required on-site. Dress in warm layers to provide better blood circulation and insulation from the cold.
Here are a few must-haves to stay warm while working in cold temperatures:
- Thermal overalls
- Protective gloves
- Warm socks
- Insulated boots
- Head and neckwear (scarves, hats, balaclavas)
- Protective eyewear
Getting through winter may be challenging but with the right safety measures in place and unwavering vigilance from all involved parties, accidents on construction sites can be kept to a minimum.