Winter Weather Safety Takes on a New Dimension This Year
December 16, 2020
Winter can be an especially tricky time for safety personnel on home building jobsites. But the pandemic of 2020 adds another dimension to jobsite safety plans during the cold weather months.
Home builders should continue to require their workers and trades partners to follow the Phase 2 Construction COVID-19 Jobsite Requirements. Although there is light at the end of the tunnel for the pandemic, this winter is expected to be the worst of the entire outbreak, and home builders should continue to practice diligence.
But cold weather also brings non-virus dangers to jobsites that require special attention. The use of space heaters inside structures presents an elevated fire risk, so be careful while using them. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also has guidance for workers on jobsites during the winter that includes:
Be aware of weather forecasts.
Keeping track of the forecast for the day is the first step for keeping your workers warm. A worst-case scenario is that an employer sends workers out to a jobsite the day a blizzard blows into town. Employers should watch the local weather and check the National Weather Service. If possible, schedule work during the warmest part of the day.
Limit exposure to the elements.
When the wind and snow are blowing and temperatures are dangerously low, schedule outside work in shorter time blocks. Consider breaking up larger projects into smaller tasks or providing short, frequent breaks in a warm environment such as a heated trailer or a tent with portable heaters.
Require proper gear.
Working outside during the winter requires the right gear for the job, including boots, heavy coats, gloves, hats and other essentials based on the weather. Employers should require all workers to wear clothing that will keep them warm and dry to prevent hypothermia and frostbite.
Review work sites every day.
Any kind of debris can pose a risk in work environments; however, it is particularly true for winter construction. Snow and ice on overhangs and rooftops should be regularly cleared to prevent falling to the ground level. Snow can also hide dangerous materials that can fall to a lower level and injure a worker.
Remove snow and ice.
Before work is started on a site, employers should ensure snow is removed, salt or sand is put down, and large patches of ice are chipped away. And, no matter how time-sensitive the construction job is, workers should avoid working on scaffolding in ice and snow.
Inspect and prepare vehicles.
Before heading into the winter, all work vehicles should be inspected to determine if they are fully functioning. Employers should also add winter emergency kits to work vehicles that include an ice scraper, snow brush, shovel, tow chain, flashlight with extra batteries, emergency flares, a blanket, snacks and water.
Educate workers on the signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
Even when employers do everything they can to protect workers, issues can still arise. Supervisors and workers need to know the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite so that if anyone shows these signs, they can receive immediate medical attention.
Stay safe from the elements and the coronavirus this winter, because 2021 is promising to be an extraordinary year in home building.