How to Protect Against Common Winter Construction Hazards
Construction work carries a number of inherent risks – some of which are worsened in the winter months. Winter in Canada brings the added challenge of dealing with snow, ice, and below-freezing temperatures. All of these factors can increase the risk of illness or injury on the job site.
Thankfully, awareness can go a long way to minimizing these risks. We’ve compiled five common winter construction hazards, along with some tips to help you protect yourself and your employees.
Winter Construction Hazard #1 – Cold Stress
One hazard you need to be aware of is cold stress. To combat cold stress, make sure to:
Dress warmly. Make sure clothing is properly insulated, and if you expect to be working in wet conditions (think rain or snow), opt for apparel that is water repellent.
Learn the signs of cold stress. Make sure employees are informed about the adverse effects of prolonged exposure to cold. Just as important is ensuring everyone is aware of the emergency procedures in case of a cold injury.
Stay hydrated and drink warm liquids. Hot beverages and soup will help hydrate you while also warming you up. Pro tip: although it is a hot liquid, coffee is not ideal as it contributes to dehydration.
Winter Construction Hazard #2 – Slip and Fall
The second winter construction hazard we’re highlighting is one of the most common causes of injuries on site: the slip and fall. Stay safe by clearing away snow and ice before you begin working; preparing your work environment for the task at hand is key in this case.
Pay attention to your surroundings and slow down! While we understand the stress generated by a looming deadline, rushing work on an icy site is a recipe for disaster. Finally, proper footwear is also important – so look for winter-ready safety boots with a good, non-slip tread. We also recommend ice traction cleats to help mitigate the risk of a slip and fall.
Winter Construction Hazard #3 – Snow Removal
Snow removal is practically unavoidable in most parts of Canada, so you may not think twice about the dangers of this practice. However, snow removal is a legitimate winter hazard. Removing snow from roofs or scaffolding is especially risky, as the inherent hazards of working at heights can be worsened by winter conditions.
Snow removal also puts you at risk for muscle strain, so share the burden with a partner whenever possible. To stay safe, use a long-handled rake to push snow off of elevated surfaces. If you can’t avoid using a ladder, make sure it is deiced before use, and that it is not placed on a slippery surface!
Winter Construction Hazard #4 – Winter Driving
Winter road conditions can increase the likelihood of a vehicular accident. To keep your employees safe, perform regular vehicle inspections and maintenance to ensure your vehicles are winter-ready. Wherever possible, clear sites and roads of snow and ice to minimize driving hazards. Finally, consider providing winter-specific driver training.
Winter Construction Hazard #5 – Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning may not be the first winter construction hazard that comes to mind, but it can be a deadly one. Some construction workers use gasoline-powered appliances or tools, which produce carbon monoxide. In the winter, we’re especially likely to use things like gas-powered heaters, generators and snow blowers.
Carbon monoxide levels can become hazardous if you’re using any of these tools in an enclosed space, so take the proper precautions to stay safe:
Whenever possible, swap gas-powered tools for electric or manual equipment.
If you have workers who are at risk of carbon monoxide exposure, consider providing them with personal carbon monoxide monitors.
Education is key. Inform your employees of the dangers of using gas-powered tools in enclosed spaces, and teach them the signs of carbon monoxide exposure.
In addition to these five hazards, winter weather can also cause a dangerous distraction. The discomfort it causes can result in lost concentration or focus on the task at hand, making accidents more likely. Again, simply being aware of the effects of winter weather on your physical and mental state can go a long way to preventing incidents on the job site.
For some more great tips regarding winter safety on construction sites, read our Cold Weather Survival Guide for Construction Workers. Stay safe this winter!