4 Steps to Keep Your Workers Safe in Cold Weather
With much of the United States experiencing the first arctic blast of the season, it’s a good time to review proper cold weather jobsite safety.
The most obvious area of concern is protecting workers from the bodily dangers posed by cold weather. As temperatures drop and wind speed increases, heat leaves the body more rapidly. This can lead to cold-induced injuries including hypothermia, which occurs when skin temperature lowers leading to declining internal body temperature and frostbite.
To keep everyone safe, take these basic steps:
Stay aware of weather forecasts. Employers should watch the local weather for extreme developments. 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.
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. Encourage dressing in layers with a base layer of moisture-wicking fabrics to better handle temperature fluctuations.
Remove snow and ice. Before work is started on a site, employers should ensure that snow is removed, sand is put down on walkways, and large patches of ice are chipped away.
Avoiding the cold also presents another hazard: Smoke, fumes and potential fires from heating sources.
The use of space heaters can present an elevated fire risk, so appropriate caution and constant monitoring should always be used when these devices are in operation. Carbon monoxide poisoning can also occur when fuel-burning equipment and tools are used in buildings or semi-enclosed spaces without adequate ventilation.
If using space heaters or other sources of heat on a jobsite, make sure to regularly inspect the equipment, clean the area around the heaters each day, and ensure proper ventilation if inside.
Staying safe in cold weather can be achieved by using common sense. But making a plan for productive work in the winter can go a long way to keep workers safe.