Winter’s on its Way to a Construction Site Near You!
Now that Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night have passed, we’re once more facing the real winter months here in the UK and, if the past few winters are anything to go by, then we can expect some pretty harsh and unpleasant weather over the coming months. This means that working in the construction sector may be more of a challenge than during more clement weather, especially for those of us who work outdoors.
Construction sites by their very nature contain hazards that must be assessed so that the work being undertaken can be done so in a safe manner. Freezing temperatures, strong winds and wet conditions mean that trips and falls are more likely, and more likely to be serious when they occur. Construction site owners and managers have a responsibility to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of staff on site over the winter months.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the following five issues should be considered over the winter months:
- Wet and decaying leaves
- Ice, frost and snow
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (The Management Regulations) require that work related risks must be assessed, including a consideration of the effect of low temperatures. Control measures must be implemented to deal with those risks identified in the risk assessment.
Preventing slips on icy surfaces – falls are one of the most common accidents on construction sites all year round. However, winter weather conditions increase the risk of falls due to ice and wet, slippery surfaces. During cold spells, ice may accumulate on ladders, walkways, stairs, work platforms and scaffolding. These areas should be treated to reduce the risk of slips and falls and workers should all have the right type of footwear for icy conditions – this will help to avoid slips and falls, whether from height or at ground level.
Driving – all vehicles used for travel to and from work sites should be in good working order, and should be checked before heading off to make sure that tyres and lights are working properly and that the vehicle has enough fuel. It’s a good idea in winter to make sure vehicles are stocked with emergency items like flasks, blankets, food and water. Driving accidents don’t just happen on the roads, they also occur on construction sites. Don’t forget that, even onsite, winter driving rules for the road still apply. It’s also important to remember that construction vehicles are not as agile as cars due to their weight and size.
Cold Stress – when temperatures fall to near or below zero, it can cause the skin and internal body temperatures to drop. If rain causes the skin to become damp, this will contribute to heat loss from the body, preventing the body from warming itself. This may cause serious illnesses that can result in permanent tissue damage. Hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot are all potential hazards if workers are not protected from the elements.
We’ll have some more information next week on how to avoid the dangers that are part of working on construction sites in the winter months. Make sure you follow us on Facebook or Twitter so that you don’t miss out.