Construction doesn’t stop in the winter. Canadian winters bring the added challenges of snow, ice, and below-freezing temperatures, all of which can have a negative impact on your workers and project and increase the risk of illness or injury on the job site.
Before the next major storm comes and starts to impact your area, being both prepared and aware can go a long way to minimizing these risks and negative impacts. We’ve created a list of common winter construction hazards and some winter safety tips to keep you and your workers safe this season.
Keep an eye on the weather
As temperatures drop and storms roll in, keep a watchful eye on your workers for signs of hypothermia and frostbite, and make sure they are dressed for the weather. Give your workers enough time to secure the construction site and get home before severe weather strikes.
Inspect and clear job sites
Winter storms can cause a surprising amount of damage, especially when snow and ice are allowed to accumulate. You need to inspect your construction sites for downed powerlines, trees, or any other debris, while also clearing snow ice from walking and working surfaces like walkways, scaffolding, ladders, and roofs, and icicles from overhead. Salt or sand can melt icy patches, and improve traction for workers. If the patch can’t be removed, ensure it is marked appropriately to avoid injuries.
Warm up equipment and tools
Make sure you and your workers are following the manufacturer’s instructions on properly warming up heavy equipment before use. Fluids like engine and hydraulic oils in equipment must be rated for the temperatures in your area and may need to be replaced if necessary. You may also need to take further precautions with pieces of equipment that use air compressors and pneumatic tools by draining fluid air compressor tanks after each use to prevent accumulation of moisture from freezing and put antifreeze tool oil in your pneumatic tools to protect from the cold.
Provide appropriate PPE and layer up
Take extra steps to ensure workers are wearing all their personal protective equipment (PPE) during winter conditions. Hard hats should always be worn to protect from falling hazards like icicles and can be lined inside to prevent heat from escaping. Gloves and mittens with manual dexterity should be worn when working with tools and materials as frostbite can occur immediately if workers touch extremely cold metal with their bare hands. Keeping warm is one of the most important things when working in the winter, so layer up clothing with a thick waterproof layer over an inner layer of moisture-wicking thermals and avoid leaving skin exposed as much as possible. Designate an area on the job site with heating for workers to warm up after working and limit their exposure to the cold.
Simply being prepared and aware of the inherent dangers that the winter brings can go a long way toward preventing injuries, incidents, risks, and negative impacts on your workers and your construction site. We hope these tips give you the help you need to stay safe and productive this winter.