Those who live and work in the Midwest know that the winter months can be long and grueling. Safety is our number one priority, and as we prepare for the start of winter, we are dedicated to ensuring that our team is equipped with the knowledge needed to work safely in colder temperatures.
From cold-related injuries like hypothermia, to nasty slips and falls due to ice, the winter weather can be a hazard for those working outdoors. As the first snow begins to fall, keep the following in mind in order to keep you, and your team, safe this winter:
Check Weather Forecasts
Keeping track of the day-to-day weather forecast is a great first step in protecting your team from the elements. You don’t want to send your team out on the same day that a major blizzard is forecasted to blow into town.
You should also keep an eye on temperatures and try to schedule work on the job site during the warmest part of the day and when the sun is highest.
Wear Proper Winter Gear
When working outside in cold temperatures, it is important that you wear clothing that will keep you dry and warm. Wearing multiple layers of loose clothing will create an insulating effect, as opposed to tight clothing that inhibits circulation.
The head, hands, and feet lose heat more rapidly than other parts of the body, so always be sure to wear a hat, gloves and layered socks. Choose boots that are both insulated and waterproof. Also make sure that your footgear provides traction and will protect against slipping or tripping on ice and snow. Depending on the weather conditions, additional protective gear, like waterproof pants or a full face mask, may be necessary.
Always be sure to have a dry pair of work clothes onsite, as moisture of any kind carries heat from the body twenty-four times faster than if you were dry.
Limit Exposure and Prepare
When you have a break, move to a warm location. Time spent exposed to cold temperatures should be as limited as possible. Make sure that workers are scheduled in teams of at least two people. Utilizing the buddy system will allow workers to monitor each other’s conditions and behaviors, watching for signs of cold-related illness or injuries.
Working in cold weather depletes the body’s resources more quickly than normal.
Taking frequent breaks will help workers avoid fatigue, and eating foods high in calories and carbohydrates will contribute to energy resources. It is also important to remain hydrated, but avoid caffeine, as this increases the heart rate and makes people feel falsely warm. Water or a warm non-caffeinated beverage is best.
Know the Symptoms
Making sure that your team is properly trained to recognize the characteristics and symptoms of cold-related injuries is very important. This will help workers recognize changes in their own body, and their coworkers. Training should include knowledge of cold-related injuries, what symptoms are, and applicable first aid.
The most common cold-related health concerns are hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot. Hypothermia is the most dangerous, and if left untreated, can result in death. The importance of the buddy system cannot be overlooked when it comes to noticing warning signs.
While working outside can be a perk for those in the construction industry, it can also be dangerous if you are not properly prepared for the elements. We never know how long the winter will last in the Midwest, so our team at RBV is ready to bundle up, buddy up, and grab an extra thermos of hot chocolate.