Once again, folks, winter is on its way – the weather lately has been positively autumnal and we all know it’s set to get a lot worse before it begins to get better, hopefully next spring. This means that construction site owners and managers will need to plan ahead and prepare for the cold winter weather and the hazards that it typically brings. In our usual timely fashion, we bring you some tips that you can use to help ensure the safety and comfort of your workforce during the wicked winter months here in the UK.
When the weather is particularly harsh, try to limit the time your workers are exposed to the elements by scheduling outdoor work in shorter segments if possible.
Keep track of the local weather forecasts and try to plan the outdoor work accordingly. While there’s no legal minimum temperature for outdoor work (as there is for indoor work), employers or managers do have a duty of care towards the workforce and you’re responsible for making sure the work is not carried out in unsafe or unhealthy conditions. Continuing working in extreme cold may constitute a breach of this duty of care.
Inspect the worksite every day before work begins. Make sure that no new hazards have developed as a result of the weather – be on the lookout for snow and ice accumulation or downed power lines and trees.
Remove snow and ice and put down salt or sand before work begins so that workers don’t have to deal with these alongside the cold temperatures. This may take time and seem like extra hassle, but this could greatly reduce the risk of injury.
Inspect and prepare any vehicles or machinery to be used to ensure that they are fully functioning.
Provide a warm area for breaks. While outdoor work in winter is unavoidable for construction workers here in the UK, staff need a place to take a break from the harsh weather and warm themselves. The break area may be a heated trailer or even a tent with portable heaters that gives some shelter from the outside weather conditions. Make sure that all staff follow proper safety procedures with the heating devices available.
Workers will need to be provided with the correct clothing for severe weather, including boots, warm coats, gloves and hats. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to require workers to wear the type of clothing that will keep them warm and dry, preventing hypothermia or frostbite. It’s essential to ensure that shoes and boots have non-slip soles.
Make sure all your workers are familiar with the signs of frostbite and hypothermia so that anybody showing these signs can receive immediate medical attention.
Slow things down. While this may seem counterproductive, the potential dangers are increased during cold and icy conditions. Moving and working at a slower place and staying alert for additional hazards will help to reduce the risk of injury.