Staying Safe During Winter Construction

winter_constructionA construction site is a dangerous place even in the best of weather conditions.  In most parts of the country, the weather is not always ideal for working in the outdoors, however, a construction site is not going to close because of some bad weather.  Most construction continues throughout the year.  The rain and snow make the job of keeping a job site safe a difficult and ongoing challenge.  There are thing several things that site managers, owner and workers can do to stay safe during the cold months.

Limit exposure to the elements – Work should be scheduled in shorter duration to limit the time workers are out in the cold.  Cold weather tightens muscles causing more strain on workers making tasks more difficult.

Keep track of the weather – Job site managers should check with the National Weather Service to know when conditions make outside work dangerous to the workers.

Provide a warm break area – Outside work is necessary, but so is making sure workers can take a break from the weather and warm up.

Cut back on the coffee – Caffeine causes the heart to speed up making the body seem warmer than it is making workers think they can stay outdoors longer than is advised.

Require proper gear – Workers should have proper boots, coats, gloves and hats for the cold weather.

Review work sites regularly – Work sites should be watched closely for the build-up of snow and ice as well as other hazards created due to the weather, such as downed power lines.

Remove Snow and Ice – Workers should be guaranteed a safe and obstruction-free site.  Snow and ice should be removed in order to maintain a safe job site.

worker_winter_constructionInspect and prepare vehicles and machinery – All engines and machinery should be checked to make sure they are ready for the winter.  Having a vehicle of a piece of machinery break down because of cold weather can be a major hazard to the workers who must deal with these engines.  Workers should be trained on the procedure in case a vehicle breaks down or a piece of machinery stops working due to the weather.

Educate workers on the signs of frostbite and hypothermia – Even if employers do everything right to protect workers, issues can still arise in the form of frostbite or hypothermia.  Supervisors and workers need to know the signs of these conditions so they can receive immediate medical attention.

In a previous blog post, we discussed the Scaffold Law, which places the responsibility of elevation-related safety on the owner, contractor, and other agents for maintaining a safe working environment and providing workers the proper tools and safety devices.  During winter months, this includes ensuring that ladders are not only in proper working condition, but are placed in a proper, stable and safe manner.  Rain, snow, and ice make surfaces slick.  A job site must be monitored and maintained to so that ladders and other equipment do not become hazardous to workers.

Construction is hard work and a worker must trust his tools, his co-workers and heavy equipment that is in use.  They also have to trust that their surroundings are safe for them to perform their duties.  If that trust is misplaced or violated, then accidents can happen with tragic consequences.  If the people responsible for a job site follows these simple, yet important tips to maintain the integrity of a site, then the workers will remain safe.  If you have been injured on a construction site, contact the Law Offices of Elan Wurtzel at 516-822-7866..

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