Construction Safety Tips for Winter Weather
Whether you’re sitting in a downpour in San Diego or facing five-foot snowdrifts high in the Sierra-Nevadas, you want to be prepared for the weather. The one truth about winter is that it can put any contractor at risk. Here’s a few tips to ensure that you can finish your projects without injuring yourself or your employees.
Keep Tabs on Weather Forecasts and Plan Accordingly
Although you can expect a few days with really bad weather, you can usually plan to work most of the time. The trick is know which days are going to be good, and when you should back off for safety reasons. Build some down time into your projections, so that a delay due to heavy weather does not set you behind schedule. Remember that storms don’t always start overnight. A day that looks great in the morning might be a totally different story, come the afternoon.
Ensure You Can Get In and Out of the Construction Site
Although you and your employees may need to commute a fair distance to various jobsites, you might want to reconsider remote locations during the worst part of the year. There’s little benefit to extending your work area if you cannot actually get there to do the project. As you drive there, look for possible obstacles that might hinder arriving or leaving. For example, a rural road that rarely gets cleared might be harder to access than a site located near a large city. If you have some distance driving planned, think about carpooling to minimize the number of vehicles that need to get to the construction site.
Inspect the Site for Safety, Above and Below
Although icy sidewalks and driveways are a common source of falls, there are other reasons to inspect the site. Invest some time to confirm that you can work safely each day. Right after a heavy rain, snow or windstorm, walk through the site and look for fallen branches. Take care on soaked pavement. It may be slippery even if it is not frozen. Look up for trees or structures that are damaged and could fall on someone. Encourage everyone to wear hard hats, to protect their heads from falls or falling objects.
Prepare for the Cold
Workers are less likely to be productive if they are extremely cold. Contracting business owners can increase output and comfort if they ensure all employees have access to:
- protective gear that preserves heat
- waterproof footwear
- extra, dry socks
- eyewear and masks that won’t fog up
Working long hours at a cold site can increase the likelihood of hypothermia. You should be able to provide a heated area nearby for breaks, such as a building or trailer. Consider offering basic first aid training for your employees, especially for cold-weather conditions like hypothermia or frostbite.
Plan for the Unexpected
Despite your best attempts to prepare, there are still opportunities for trouble. The beautiful day that ended in a storm and fallen trees or power lines could block you from leaving the jobsite. Ensure that you have support accessible at all times. Keep an emergency pack in your vehicle with:
- extra food
- source of energy (e.g. a battery-powered generator)
- access to communication
If you are working at a remote location, make sure that someone not at the site knows where you are and when you should arrive home. This will help to keep an unfortunate situation from turning into a disaster.
For many contracting businesses, winter construction is simply a part of the job. Taking these steps to protect everyone involved will help you stay on time and in good health for the next project. For more information about starting your own career path in construction, contact us at CSLS today!