Winter Construction Safety


Winter Construction Safety

Construction projects don’t stop just because it gets cold. Plenty of job sites are up and running all year round, fighting through all the winter weather hazards the colder season brings.

Construction Dangers In The Winter

Ice, snow, and frigid temperatures can make working outside unbearable in the winter season. Much like extreme heat, cold weather can have natural negative effects on our bodies. According to WebMD, cold weather causes our muscles to contract and lose heat. This results in tighter muscles and joints that lose their range of motion, requiring someone to work twice as hard to complete a task that would typically be easy in warmer temperatures. Cold air is often also very dry, putting more stress on our lungs than working in milder weather would. Working in cold weather can result in:

  • tissue damage
  • increased soreness
  • muscle tears and strains
  • coughing, shortness of breath
  • irritation in airways

In addition to making our bodies tenser and prone to injury, winter weather does not fare well on equipment and surfaces. In 2014, there were over 42,480 work injuries involving ice, sleet, or snow that required at least one day away from work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)- 4,470 of these injuries occurred in New York State. Of the total number of injuries in 2014, 34,860 of them were sustained on the same level ground, meaning not falls from high above as some might expect. These injuries were a result of accidents such as:

  • falls, slips, or trips
  • overexertion and bodily reaction
  • incidents during transportation
  • impact injuries from contact with objects and equipment

Top 5 Winter Construction Safety Tips

Construction is a particularly dangerous industry, to begin with, aside from winter weather hazards that can cause significant harm. To help keep construction workers safe this winter it is especially important for employers and employees to work together to take proper precautions to accommodate weather and condition changes on the job site. To help you get started has compiled an excellent list of the top five winter construction safety tips you need to know to make it through the season.

  1. Frequent Checks and Inspections

Weather conditions can change quickly in the winter. Temperatures are volatile at best and can worsen from the beginning of a shift to the end. Make sure to perform frequent checks and inspections on the job site starting at the beginning of the season before winter weather conditions become a problem. A list of daily inspections might include:  

  • Inspecting machinery, roadways, parking areas, and walking areas to ensure they are clear of ice and snow.
  • Making sure holes or excavation sites are clearly marked with tall markers you can see over snow to prevent workers from falling.
  • Taking inventory of sand, salt, or other abrasive materials onsite to help with vehicle traction on snow and ice.
  • Checking that all fluids are able to withstand the temperatures you are working in.
  • Checking to make sure all heaters on the job site are in working condition.
  • Making sure fluid is drained from certain equipment after use to prevent freezing.

Getting into the habit of a daily or twice a day inspection routine will help keep all surfaces and equipment safe for workers during their shift.

  1. Snow and Ice Removal Plan

Snow and ice accumulate quickly, and shoveling by hand is a strenuous task to take on for anyone who is not working out on a regular basis. Have a plan for snow and ice removal in place before the season begins. Contracting out to a company can take a lot of stress off of employees, but also keep snow removal equipment such as a snow blower or plow on the job site to use in the case of an emergency. Workers performing other tasks on the job site should not be expected to remove snow as well. This increased activity could lead to cardiovascular issues and muscle injuries from repetitive, physical labor.

  1. Prevent Slip and Falls

When ice and snow build up on construction surfaces, workers are in imminent danger. Slip and fall accidents in the winter can result in serious fractures, brain and spinal cord injuries, or death. Scaffolding, ladders, walk ways, work platforms, and stairs should always be clear of ice and snow before workers begin their day. If snow is falling throughout the day, these surfaces have be constantly inspected to ensure they are safe to work on.

  1. Reduce Workers’ Exposure

If the temperatures are extremely cold, workers are already at a disadvantage when it comes to being prone to injuries. Frostbite and hypothermia are very common in the wintertime and can occur when workers are not dressed for the weather conditions or have been out in them too long. Employers should be keeping work hours in the extreme cold to a minimum. While workers are on the job, ensuring they have appropriate clothing and walls to block the wind can make conditions more bearable. During breaks, employers can set up warming stations with access to hot drinks to help workers warm up before returning to work.

  1. Use Appropriate Personal Protection Equipment

Winter weather hazards require construction workers to use different personal protective equipment (PPE) than they would use in mild or warmer temperatures. Examples of wintertime PPE include:

  • Footwear to increase traction on snow and ice and keep feet dry and warm.
  • Eyewear that reduces snow glare and fogging.
  • Ear protection that also keeps ears warm.
  • Gloves that are both insulated and waterproof that also have traction.
  • Equipment to accommodate for reduced peripheral vision due to snow.
  • Outerwear that withstands the ice and snow, is waterproof, but not too bulky where movement is severely decreased.

Striking a balance between using protective equipment that blocks the cold or equipment that allows for the right amount of mobility on the job can be tricky. But don’t allow workers to neglect using PPE to get a job done as it will lead to unnecessary injuries. Choosing equipment that is right for the task and can also withstand the cold weather is the best route to take for protecting employees.

Protecting NYC Employees

Winter weather hazards do not have to cost you your safety at work this season. If you or a loved one has sustained a winter-related construction injury, our experienced team of personal injury attorneys is here for support. The law firm of Pazer, Epstein, Jaffe, and Fein has over 50-years of experience fighting back for NYC construction workers. 

Contact us using our convenient online form or feel free to phone us in New York at 212-227-1212, or in Huntington/Long Island at 631-864-2429.