3 Major Hazards Of Winter Construction And How To Avoid Them

For those who make a living outdoors, winter can pose a unique set of hazards not found in other occupations or in other seasons. Here are three of the most common hazards working in winter weather and how to prevent them.

Cold-Related Illnesses
Being exposed to elements year round can pose hazards, but winter weather increases those risk exponentially. Being exposed to cold temperatures for long periods can lead to cold-related illnesses resulting in injuries and fatalities. Here are some guidelines to help mitigate the dangers of working in the cold:

  • Train workers to recognize the signs and symptoms of hypothermia, cold stress and frostbite
  • Use a buddy system to ensure workers can help one another in the event of an emergency
  • Provide frequent breaks in rest areas where there is heat
  • Avoid caffeine/alcohol and stay hydrated with warm, sweetened fluid
  • Use barriers to block wind and other elements in work areas when possible
  • Dress warmly for the weather using these tips from OSHA:
    • Wear at least three layers of loose fitting clothing. Layering provides better insulation. Do not wear tight fitting clothing.
    • An inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic to keep moisture away from the body.
    • A middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when wet.
    • An outer wind and rain protection layer that allows some ventilation to prevent overheating.
    • Wear a hat or hood to help keep your whole body warmer. Hats reduce the amount of body heat that escapes from your head.
    • Use a knit mask to cover the face and mouth (if needed).
    • Use insulated gloves to protect the hands (water resistant if necessary).
    • Wear insulated and waterproof boots (or other footwear).

Slips Trips and Falls on Ice
Falls are the leading cause of death in construction — and that goes double for winter when icy conditions compound an already dangerous landscape. To avoid falls from slippery winter conditions:

  • Remove snow and ice promptly and apply salt/or ice melt to increase traction
  • Don footwear that is insulated and water-resistant. Look for those with rubber treads for optimal traction.
  • Be mindful of conditions and take smaller steps at a slower pace when walking on potentially icy or snowy areas is unavoidable.

Vehicular Accidents

It is estimated that a work zone crash occurs every 5.4 minutes. With the addition of winter conditions such as reduced visibility, snow and ice, the likelihood of a car operator losing control of their vehicle becomes exponential. To avoid accidents and injuries while performing duties in a work zone:

  • Wear the appropriate ANSI Class high visibility PPE
  • Ensure sufficient barriers are used to delineate work areas such as
    • cones
    • cone bars
    • traffic cone signs
  • Using flashers and/or other protective barriers to ensure worker safety