Zoro shares his tips for keeping construction sites safe as the cold weather sets in.
The construction industry has withstood many changes during the coronavirus pandemic, and now there is no shortage of projects. But as businesses struggle to meet their deadlines, it’s important to take the time to keep employees safe during the colder months.
You have probably implemented safety measures at all your sites, but these processes must be reviewed and adapted specifically for the winter to ensure the safety of your workers. Here, tool, equipment and PPE supplier Zoro summarizes some of the key things you can do when the weather gets colder.
Prepare before winter
When the weather starts to cool, you should start preparing for the months ahead. The right steps to take are purchasing gravel, salt, or sand to make walking in place safer – that way you’ll have it ready when you need it. Check that all machine fluids (such as engine oil and hydraulic oil) are manufactured to withstand expected temperatures. Then survey all heaters in the cabins of all vehicles to make sure they are working, arranging for necessary repairs.
Finally, make sure you have the tools you need to deal with melting snow and ice. Pooling water can slow down construction and make it unsafe for workers, so examine your water runoff plans to see if those areas can cope with the extra water during winter rain and snow.
Falls and slips are one of the most common problems that workers face on construction sites throughout the winter. One of the simplest things you can do to reduce the risk of your workers falling is salt and sand as many walkways, scaffolding platforms, and steps are less slippery.
You should also make sure that your workers wear hard hats at all times on site, as one of the biggest dangers when people fall is that they can hit their heads. To remind people to use sandblasted walkways and to wear hard hats, it helps to have a designated security point with a whiteboard that summarizes the security protocol for that site. This should include instructions on what to do in the event of a fall, such as not moving her if she is struggling or unconscious, and calling NHS 111 for advice if she or a colleague notices anything. injury or mental fatigue after a fall while working.
Bring gloves and warm clothes
Many tasks on construction sites require people to be skilled with their hands, so keeping them warm is important. It is not only unpleasant to have cold hands, but it is also a danger, as the seizing of workers’ hands can lead to accidents and injuries due to slower reactions. Additionally, if workers see their body temperature reduced very frequently, it can cause illness over time, leading to more sick days and low morale. So provide employee gloves that offer both warmth and agility. Communicate to people that it is important to keep their gloves on at all times, and this is especially important when climbing scaffolding or ladders, or using equipment.
Then, instead of just buying reflective jackets, buy waterproof or fleece-lined jackets. It helps to have a set of reflective clothing for summer and one for winter. Encourage employees to wear at least three layers in cold weather, and let them know how important it is to bring extra waterproof clothing in case something gets wet.
Perform regular security checks
In summer, the main concern when working outdoors is to avoid heatstroke and dehydration. But in winter, the risks are more numerous. To prevent your construction site from becoming unsafe, it’s important to conduct regular safety inspections to verify that equipment is working (and placed in safe areas) and that walkways and steps are sanded and non-slippery. It is easy for snow and ice to make scaffolding, steps and walkways unsafe.
Placing additional signs around your site can also be helpful, as it draws attention to new dangers that are easily overlooked. For example, if there is an area that tends to freeze over when temperatures drop at night, adding a warning sign nearby can alert workers to be more careful there. It can also be helpful to use signs to remind people of new protocols, such as turning off heaters.
Set realistic goals
Remember, it is not viable or safe for workers to complete projects in the same amount of time as they would in dry summer weather. It is important to establish realistic schedules that take into account that the sites can be slippery, icy and wet. Give teams more time to complete their tasks if necessary, and tell your employees not to rush. Having workers trip and injure themselves on site will only further delay deadlines, so keeping a safer pace is much more productive.
It can also be helpful to have team meetings where you can check in and see how everyone is doing. Ask your employees how fast projects are progressing and organize with them any additional safety precautions so that everyone is briefed on how to work safely and efficiently.
Winter is a particularly important time to review your safety processes, as a lot can go wrong in construction when the weather is more severe. In addition to ensuring the safety of the construction site, it is advisable to schedule breaks during the work day to warm up the employees. Providing people with hot drinks during these breaks can help keep people warm and productive.
Having the right safety gear is crucial, and that, combined with breaks and warm clothing, should protect everyone during the colder months.