Winter is a tough time for construction workers, and this period usually correlates to a rise in certain injuries. Workers and especially their supervisors must take steps to ensure sound safety practices and to prevent injury. These measures can range from bringing along an extra pair of dry socks to changing your scheduling practices completely. Read on to learn more about strategies that can reduce cold weather injuries and keep workers safe no matter how low the mercury tumbles.
Tips for Avoiding Cold Weather Injuries
Stay Warm with Proper Work Gear
The importance of wearing warm, layered clothing should be emphasized in team meetings and in daily interactions. If need be, you can institute mandatory rules on the types of clothing workers should wear. Providing an extra allowance at the beginning of winter for clothing purchases or directly ordering gear in bulk for workers can also encourage smart dress habits.
You can read more about the right clothing for winter construction work in our related post, but remember these four basics:
- Dress in layers that can be removed or added according to temperatures. Start with long johns and end with a wind- and water-resistant outer shell.
- Read labels and seek out the right clothing materials; 100% wool is always a great choice.
- Take care with extremities — hands and feet. Workers should always have dry, warm, non-cotton and non-polyester socks, and they should wear gloves or mittens when possible.
- Staying dry is critical. Have extra replacement clothes for workers that become soaked.
Beware of Exhaustion
The human body burns energy to keep a constant temperature. When performing heavy labor outdoors, your body therefore uses much more energy in cold weather. Some workers forget this because they become warm and even sweaty in their layers, but they are actually draining energy and losing heat the entire time. Job owners have motivation to watch out for exhaustion, too, since workers in this condition perform slower and make poorer decisions that can lead to mistakes.
Monitor your workers for signs of exhaustion, and switch out exhausted workers with fresh ones so that everyone gets a needed break. Provide additional snacks and warm, calorie-rich liquids like hot cocoa or broth to keep everyone energized. You can also adjust your schedule to work indoors on days or times when the temperature is lowest.
Invest in a Job Site Heater
Job site heaters can pay for themselves in terms of happier, more productive workers. If you cannot keep the entire work area heated, then provide a “warm up” break room for workers to regain their energy and body heat. You can also use electrically-heated workwear that uses the same batteries as most cordless tools.
Clear Snow and Melt Ice
Snow and especially ice can lead to all sorts of slip-and-falls or other serious accidents. Construction site snow removal requires special training and safety considerations on its own, but the efforts can make work go faster and reduce accidents. At the very least, keep bags of de-icer, sand and/or rock salt on hand to prevent jobsite icing from causing serious injuries.
Make Sure Your Insurance Policies Are Up to Snuff
Extreme cold weather can cause injuries as well as delays, errors, damage and other major financial setbacks. Check to see whether your workers’ compensation or other insurance policies can adequately cover potential cold-weather hazards all winter long.