According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), construction work is the most dangerous job, and on any given day in the United States there are over 250,000 construction worksites.
There are more ways, than you can even begin to imagine that a construction worker could be injured or killed during the “good” weather months. Now, add ice, snow and, freezing temperatures to the already present dangers that construction workers already face, and you a recipe for disaster.
Potential Dangers to Look for During the Winter
With so many potential dangers, the most dangerous one of all is often overlooked – cold stress – this danger is not only a problem for construction workers in cold climates, workers in warm climates are also at risk. Of course, workers in cold climates are more susceptible to more severe cases than those in warmer climates.
Cold stress occurs when workers are exposed to near or below freezing temperatures accompanied by an increase in wind speed (which is commonly known as the wind chill effect.) Additionally, dampness or wetness, (even body sweat), assists in the loss of heat from the body, which decreases the skin temperature, and the body loses its ability to heat itself. Cold stress can cause mild to serious injuries and illnesses and death is not exempt from cold stress.
The best way to prevent cold stress is to dress in layers, wear clothing and protect gear appropriate for the temperatures, keep your feet dry and warm, and if you notice numbness in your fingers or other areas of your body go inside where it is warm and give your body time to warm up before going back to work.
Throughout your work day, check equipment, walkways, and other potential hazards caused by ice or snow and take the appropriate measures to make those areas safe for everyone.
Keep snowbanks at a minimum height, so equipment operators can see over them. Make sure your fellow co-workers are not experiencing any signs of distress either caused by the temperatures or other factors.
When working at a construction site during the winter, it is everyone’s responsibility to look out for one another, putting a little extra team effort into your day, may save a co-worker a lot of pain, suffering, or even their life.