Common Winter Safety Hazards: How to Prepare
Worksites are inherently dangerous due to what construction workers do every day. Knowing how to be safe at the workplace can take anxiety off someone’s shoulders, but winter weather presents its own issues.
Managers can help minimize injuries when they know how to prepare their employees for even more hazardous working conditions. Some moments will be unpredictable, but as long as a job site is ready for the worst, it can survive anything.
Winter Safety Hazards Workers Might Encounter
Winter brings more safety hazards than any other season. Because those few months bring inclement weather, it can be harder to get work done. Still, workers can push through these challenging conditions — they just need to know how best to protect themselves.
1. Icy Roads
Colder areas might often experience icy conditions, which can worsen overnight if the roads thawed the day before. If drivers aren’t adequately trained to deal with hazardous road conditions, they might hurt themselves or the company vehicles.
Rear-end collisions happen more often in bad weather, particularly those with icy conditions that make it harder for most people to drive. Decision makers should train anyone operating vehicles larger than a standard car on how to avoid common issues on icy roads.
2. Snow Removal
In areas where people anticipate a lot of snow, they may also need to remove it. Precautions like adding salt to the roads and sidewalks may only do so much — workers might need to shovel snow out of their work site.
Injuries can quickly occur when removing snow from high places, such as scaffolds or roofs. People might also strain their backs as they try to shovel snow. The best way to deal with snow removal is to take breaks and use tools with long handles, especially when removing snow from high places.
Workers open themselves up to frostbite when working outside in the cold for long periods. Frostbite occurs when a person’s tissues freeze because they’ve been out in the cold for too long. These tissues might be permanently lost if not dealt with soon enough or if allowed to refreeze after thawing out.
One way to help support workers who may be outside for a long time is to offer a heated break area where they can warm up frequently. Employees should also strive to wear thick, heavy clothes that fit the weather.
4. Workplace Injuries
Workplace injuries due to common safety hazards don’t disappear because the weather gets colder. If workers don’t have the proper personal protective equipment, they open themselves up for several injuries that could have been avoided otherwise.
Every worker should be offered a helmet, safety glasses or goggles and gloves, among other applicable things like reflective vests when working at night. Having the right equipment can minimize the chance of injury.
5. Insufficient Lighting
Poor or insufficient lighting can cause workers to hurt themselves when dealing with heavy machinery accidentally. Many construction companies have started using fabric buildings to rectify the lack of light.
These buildings are meant to be temporary and can be relocated, but it also allows natural lighting inside the building where workers may be using dangerous machinery. These buildings also allow for proper ventilation, which can save people from health care scares.
Preparations to Take That Prioritize Safety
Every job site should take measures to keep its workers safe. While knowing the risks might be half the battle fought, every employee should know how to mitigate any dangers they encounter. These are some easy ways for workers to protect themselves in winter when hazards might be more prevalent.
1. Always Have a Phone
Cell phones are great when working on the job site. If someone is working alone and something goes wrong, they should be able to call the office or someone else on the team to help them. When there’s no time to wait, phones can also reach emergency numbers to bring qualified professionals to the site. Workers should have walkie-talkies or a similar device to help them communicate with others on the team in areas with no cell phone service.
2. Drive Safely
Knowing how to handle a vehicle can save someone’s life in winter weather. When a skid happens, the driver should steer in the direction of the skid so they don’t have to overcorrect to stay in their lane. Another piece of advice is to always increase the following distance behind a car during winter weather. It would be best if only experienced workers drove company vehicles in inclement weather.
3. Inspect a Job Site
After a terrible storm, leaders should inspect the job site before anyone gets to work. Workers must ensure it’s safe to work there for the day, so looking out for any downed power lines or tree branches is necessary. Once everyone is confident the job site is safe, work for the day can continue as normal.
4. Winterize Vehicles
Vehicles should be prepared for winter long before any inclement weather is expected. Winterizing is as easy as replacing regular tires with snow tires in areas expecting snow and ice during the season. Higher-ups should outfit every vehicle with an emergency kit that can deal with human injuries or vehicular issues while on the road. Furthermore, a professional should inspect vehicles before the winter season so every worker can feel assured they will work correctly.
5. Wear the Right Shoes
Work boots and shoes might be the most crucial part of a worker’s uniform. Slips are common during winter — they can be deadly on a job site depending on what’s near the person who slips. Shoes with proper traction and insulation can help workers clear icy ground more easily and the right walking technique can save people pain and injury. Every employee should aim to have the right shoes to complete a winter-proof outfit.
Stay Safe in the Winter and Beyond
Every season poses its own challenges, but winter is one of the most difficult to manage because of all the challenges it brings. No job is worth someone’s health, safety or life. Checking things out and preparing for the season is key to ensuring the winter goes smoothly for every job. Adhering to specific rules regarding operation can also help employees feel like they’re safe while on the job. That way, everyone can enjoy the season while working safely.