Last edited 06 Mar 2017

How to work safely on a construction site in winter

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Contents

[edit] Introduction

The winter weather always has the potential of hitting the UK hard, often with strong winds, freezing cold temperatures, snow, ice and lots of rain. All of these elements can cause major hazards for construction workers, working on sites while winter weather is at its worst.

As the weather is uncontrollable, making sure site operatives stay safe is essential to any construction project.

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[Image courtesy of http://www.michaelmolloy.co.uk/]

[edit] Construction site dangers

Wind, freezing rain and ice present plenty of hazards, as it makes the construction site extremely dangerous and can result in an increase of on site accidents and injuries.

[edit] Cold stress

Temperatures that fall to near or below freezing are extremely dangerous to a person’s health. They can result in causing the skin and internal body temperatures to drop. Also, if the rain causes the skin to become damp it will contribute to heat loss from the body, resulting in the body not being able to warm itself up.

All of this can cause serious illnesses that could result in permanent tissue damage or, in more serious cases, death.

Trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia are potential hazards if workers are not properly protected from the elements when working outside.

[edit] Falls

Falls are one of the most common construction site accidents and they can happen all year round. Winter weather increases the risk of falls due to icy and wet, slippery surfaces.

When wet surfaces freeze it causes ice to accumulate on surfaces such as scaffolding, ladders, walkways, stairs and work platforms. If these areas are not treated correctly it can cause construction workers to slip and fall from a height, causing injuries such as broken bones, fractures, traumatic brain injuries and even death.

[edit] Winter driving accidents

Accidents to do with driving don’t just happen on the roads, they can easily happen on a construction site. Being on a construction site, it is easy to forget that winter driving rules for the road still apply. It is also important to remember that construction vehicles usually aren’t as agile as cars due to their size and ability to hold and carry large objects.

According to HSE, it has been estimated that 66,000 non-fatal, self reported injuries happened within the UK between 2015/16 and 43 workers were fatally injured between 2015/16.

[edit] How to prevent accidents on the construction site

Limit any exposure to the elements by shielding certain work areas from winds and draughts, therefore protecting the construction workers from harm when working in these shielded areas.

Keep updated with weather reports, giving employers enough time to carry out any procedures necessary to ensure their employees stay safe on site. Such measures could include:

  • Shielding any areas off that could be hit worse with the weather.
  • Creating warm break areas so construction workers can warm up whilst on their break.
  • Schedule outside work to be done in shorter durations, therefore ensuring employees aren’t having to face the elements for long periods of time.
  • Require the correct gear so when employees are working outside none of their skin is exposed and they are fully insulated to keep in any body heat and prevent the cold weather affecting them.
  • Educate employees about how to work safely when the bad weather hits and what to do to prevent any accidents.
  • Check to site for any new hazards that could have been caused by the bad weather.

Working outside any time of the year can be extremely dangerous. In fact, it’s statistically more likely to snow at Easter than at Christmas.

Whether working outside building new houses or constructing new machinery for factories; always make sure employees are safe, helping to reduce any onsite injuries or fatalities.

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