March 9, 2023 posted in Construction
While March can conjure Spring-like images, this time of year can still deliver a wintery weather mix. Therefore, it’s important to stay vigilant and take extra steps to ensure your construction site is well-prepared for the cold weather.
In this blog post, we provide tips on keeping a construction site safe and secure during winter. From protecting workers from the elements to equipment care, we’ll cover tips for running a safe job site.
While dehydration is most often associated with summer, you can become dehydrated just as quickly in winter. The body doesn’t get as hot and sweat evaporates more rapidly in the cold air. Thus, we can be tricked into thinking we aren’t losing fluids as rapidly.
In cold weather, the body’s thirst response is diminished (by up to 40 percent) even when dehydrated. This happens because our blood vessels constrict when cold to prevent blood from flowing freely to the extremities, enabling the body to conserve heat by drawing more blood to its core. The body is fooled into thinking it is adequately hydrated. As a result, you don’t feel as thirsty, and your body doesn’t conserve water.
Workers should wear layers whenever necessary, including an insulating, moisture-wicking base, and follow with waterproof outer layers. Wearing extra clothing helps your body conserve heat. But the added weight can make the body work between 10 and 40 percent harder producing more sweat and contributing to fluid loss.
In cold weather, we lose more fluids through respiratory water loss. For example, when you can see your breath, that’s water vapor that your body is losing. The colder the temperature and the more intense the physical labor, the more moisture you lose when you breathe.
Many construction workers turn to coffee to help them get through their shifts. However, drinking caffeinated beverages in winter conditions should be avoided. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages can increase workers’ heart rates, making them feel falsely warm. Instead, encourage workers to drink water or sports-type drinks to replace depleted electrolytes and to stay hydrated.
Winter conditions can expose workers to severe health problems, including hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot. Shivering, clumsiness, lack of coordination, and slurred speech or mumbling are symptoms of hypothermia. If a worker exhibits any signs of illness or injury, emergency help must be called immediately.
To prevent hypothermia, wear insulated, waterproof boots with extreme traction, warm socks and hats, and gloves with grips to safely handle equipment.
When winter storms roll in, you must inspect your construction sites for downed power lines and trees before allowing workers to begin work. Remove snow and ice from walking and working surfaces, including all walkways, roofs, scaffolding, and ladders. Use salt or sand to melt icy patches and improve traction for workers. Mark areas that can’t be cleared. Remind workers to slow down and take shorter steps to avoid slips and falls. Knock off icicles that have formed or cordon off areas to prevent workers from accidentally breaking them loose and creating falling object hazards.
It isn’t only when severe weather is predicted that you need to stay alert. Morning dew can change into afternoon ice with a slight shift in temperature. Clearing snow and ice from walking surfaces and spreading deicer as quickly as possible helps to prevent slips, trips, and falls.
Your feet are particularly susceptible to cold weather. This is because you lose more body heat through your feet than through your legs, arms, or torso. In addition to causing discomfort, cold feet can cause other problems, such as blood flow loss and frostbite in extreme cases.
Wearing insulated boots with a good grip keeps your feet warm and gives you the traction you need to traverse through snow and ice.Wool socks are a good choice because they minimize the heat that escapes your feet.
Keep your feet dry. Moisture encourages the release of heat. This is why our bodies sweat when we are hot. Heat will escape from your feet more quickly if your feet get wet.
Have several pairs of gloves.
Like feet, hands are an extremity that can receive less blood flow in cold weather. Switching out your gloves before you feel the moisture seeping through the material will prevent your hands from becoming cold.
In cold weather, your body protects organs by rerouting blood from your arms and legs to your core. A slight difference in blood flow affects your joints. Dressing in layers can help keep your joints warm and protected during the cold winter. This is because layers trap heat around the joint, providing added warmth and cushioning.
While walking on icy surfaces, take smaller steps. Smaller steps reduce the backward and forward forces, stabilizing your movement. This helps prevent you from slipping or falling.
Keeping the cold weather items mentioned in this blog in your vehicle is a good idea. You will be better prepared on the job site and on the road. Weather can turn on a dime. Being fully stocked could save your life.
Rechargeable batteries used to run saws, drills, flashlights, and even some demolition tools should never be left out in cold weather. Below 40 degrees, lithium-ion batteries won’t hold a charge, and leaving them out in freezing temperatures can permanently reduce run time. Don’t store these in an unheated shop or your truck toolbox when freezing weather threatens.
Air-driven power tools such as DA sanders and nail guns rely on seals, O-rings, and lubrication to function correctly. When cold temps turn these materials brittle or cause the lubrication to gel, they won’t fire properly and may become permanently damaged. Storing them inside is recommended.
Air compressors will accumulate moisture over repeated exposure to rising and falling temperatures. Drain the compressor at the end of every day and use air hoses that remain flexible in the cold.
Repeated cold, thaw cycles can create small, temporary air leaks between the rim and sidewalls of your truck and equipment tires. Over the course of a few days, this can lead to a loss of as much as 20 to 40 percent of the air pressure in your tires. Check your tires after the first hard cold snap and adjust the psi if necessary. Cold weather can also make tires brittle and more prone to damage, so tread lightly in operation.
At Austin, we believe in safety first because people are always the highest priority on a construction site.
To learn more about our commitment to safety – https://theaustin.com/why-austin/safety/