As temperatures drop, the risks for contractors and construction workers multiply, from cold stress-related ailments to hazardous working conditions. According to data from the EHS Daily Advisor, 25,000 slip, trip, and fall accidents occur daily in the United States during the winter months. Most of these incidents could have been avoided if employers had more safety precautions put in place during the winter months.
Understanding and mitigating these risks is crucial for ensuring the safety and well-being of you and your team if you’re working in such environments. Let’s explore key hazards and essential safety tips to navigate construction in the winter.
1. Winter Driving Accidents
Snow and ice can make the muddy roads more hazardous, so it’s best to give your workers training about driving during winter weather. Vehicles should also be inspected and maintained.
To avoid winter car accidents, you must:
- Check tires regularly to ensure their tread and rubber provide good grip on icy roads
- Inspect the vehicles’ headlights, brake lights, and tail lights
- Keep a safety kit with blankets, charges, ice scrapers, flat tire repair kits, basic first aid kits
2. Falls and Snow Removal
The risk of falls increases when working on snowy or frosted surfaces and snow-removal jobs. Some risks during this time of year include:
- Falling or slipping from icey ladders and roofs
- The surface under construction collapsing under the weight of workers, ice, and equipment
- Electrocution or shock risks due to snow damaged power lines or extension cords
This can lead to fractures, back and spinal cord injuries, or traumatic brain injury (TBI).
To prevent falls, you can check out our Winter Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention Safety Kit. You should also have you crew prepare by:
- Wearing water-resistant and insulated boots with good rubber tread
- Wearing hard hats to protect their heads from icicles and hard surfaces
- Wearing masks with anti-fog spray to prevent blurring vision
- Walking slowly on snow-covered surfaces
- Using safety lines at high altitudes above ground
- Using long-handled snow rakes to avoid going to work on upper floors or roofs when possible
- Always checking the maximum load limit on top and account for the estimated weight of snow, equipment, workers, etc.
3. Cold Stress and Its Prevention
If your team members are doing outdoor work in winter, they can be in danger of cold stress. This is a condition in which your body can no longer maintain its normal temperature. Types of cold stress include:
- Frostbite: It is the freezing of skin and underlying tissues. Signs include tingling, blisters, loss of feelings, and, in severe cases, can lead to amputation.
- Trench Foot: This occurs when your body constricts blood vessels to prevent heat loss and stops foot circulation. You should remove wet socks and boots, dry feet, avoid walking, and seek medical help as soon as possible if you suspect trench foot.
- Hypothermia: Signs include loss of coordination, uncontrollable shivering, slowed heart rate, and more. It can lead to unconsciousness and death. How to Implement Mental Health Resources & Solutions
To avoid cold stress, you can check out some of our Cold Stress Safety Kits. It’s also best to:
- Providing your team with insulated gloves to reduce the risk of frostbite
- Using relief workers to assign extra help for long and demanding jobs
- Wearing several layers of loose clothing for better insulation
- Monitoring workers at risk of cold stress
- Providing a heated tent, indoor area, or trailer, and encourage them to take frequent breaks to rest and warm up
Training and Ensuring Compliance to Reduce Workplace Hazards
Consider testing the standard of your business’s safety practices by enlisting with a contractor prequalification platform. Not only will you be able to highlight the gaps in your work, but you’ll also find all the relevant training material for your workers in these all-in-one platforms.
This will ensure your workers comply with safety standards and protect your company from legal liabilities or workplace accidents caused by winter-related hazards.
Some prequalification services include:
- Avetta®: Avetta compliance guarantees that construction companies meet health and safety standards.
- Veriforce®: Veriforce compliance is used in the construction industry because it covers operator qualifications, training, and drug and alcohol monitoring.
- ComplyWorks®: Complyworks prequalification keeps you up to date with safety standards, and its compliance management system or CMS allows hiring clients to keep track of safety procedures and training records.
- *ISNetworld®: The ISNetworld prequalification requires you to answer 1200 questions called a Management Systems Questionnaire (MSQ)® about your company’s health, environmental, and safety policies. In case you fail, you have to undergo necessary safety programs and training to ensure you can provide safe working conditions.
You implement our contractor management services to set up your accounts and streamline the process.
Incorporating these safety measures into construction operations during winter can significantly reduce the risks of harsh weather conditions. Prioritizing worker safety through regulatory compliance programs ensures adherence to safety standards. Collaboration with contractor management services streamlines compliance processes. Ultimately, these foster a work environment where workers feel secure, valued, and equipped to handle the challenges of winter construction.