Winter Warmers in the Construction Industry
We’ve now entered the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”, which is commonly known as autumn, with its cooler weather. Hot on the heels of autumn will come winter with freezing temperatures, rain, sleet, ice and, possibly, snow. The cold weather can seem welcome to us in the construction industry after working outside in the sun during the hot summer months, but winter brings with it a while list of dangers which may lead to cold-related injuries. Being prepared for the colder weather is the best way to guard against winter weather incidents and illnesses and the many safety hazards that come with ice, sleet and snow. Making sure you have the necessary safety items on hand will save time as will encouraging employees to take the necessary precautions to keep themselves safe as they work during the winter months.
Anybody working out of doors during cold weather should be aware of the effects that cold temperatures have on the body, namely cold stress, hypothermia and even frostbite. Limiting the length of outdoor shifts and allowing workers to acclimatise to the weather will help to prevent cold-related injuries, as will ensuring that the right type of protective clothing is available.
Employees who drive as part of their work duties should be taught how to drive safely in bad weather. They should also be provided with an emergency bag of safety items (food, water, blankets, torches and road flares) that they can use if their vehicle becomes stranded. Sand, cat litter and shovels are handy items to store in the vehicle if possible, as these could allow a stranded driver to dig the vehicle out and offer enough traction to get moving again.
During icy weather, anybody working out of doors should have ice cleats that will provide them with better traction on slippery walkways. Gloves or mittens will help to keep the hands warm. You’ll need to consider the type of work being undertaken when choosing gloves – while mittens keep the hands warmer, they inhibit dexterity, so gloves with a good grip or even fingerless gloves may prove more appropriate. Beware of scarves – they have a habit of dangling and getting caught – on ladder rungs, in machinery, etc. Nowadays, there are plenty of neck warmers on the market that are slipped over the head and don’t have any long tails to dangle dangerously.
When it comes to keeping the feet warm and dry (wet feet lose heat 25 times faster than do dry feet), encourage your workforce to keep clean, dry socks available so that they can change them if necessary.
Hygiene is another essential consideration, especially during the winter months when colds and flu are usually rife. Stress the importance of hand sanitisation and other sanitary precautions (such as sneezing into a tissue or elbow and covering the mouth when coughing) – this can help prevent the spread of bugs and viruses. Make sure that there are plenty of tissues and hand sanitizers in the workplace in order to make sure that one person with a cold doesn’t infect the whole workforce. It’s also a good idea to encourage staff to stay at home if they are sick.