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A Short Guide to Working Safely in Winter Weather 2023

A Short Guide to Working Safely in Winter Weather 2022

A Short Guide to Working Safely in Winter Weather 2023

Despite the relative downturn in industries across the board due to the coronavirus pandemic – and sympathetic downturn in employment numbers – the construction industry still responsible for the employment of over 2 million UK workers. And, as colder days roll in, it is crucial that they are all allowed to work safely in colder and less clement weather. Here is a quick guide for ensuring your safety on-site.

Plan for Regular Breaks

Fatigue is a very real danger to your health and safety on-site, where strenuous tasks using heavy loads, dangerous tools and hazardous equipment. Cold weather multiplies the risk here, as extended exposure to lower temperatures can quicken the onset of exhaustion, as well as cause reduced grip strength and shivering.

Planning out your work for the day can help manage your temperature and energy levels; regular breaks in particular are key to remaining safe at work. Your employers are required to provide adequate facilities for rest and eating, and those rest areas should allow employees to warm up as well – whether through provision of hot drinks or heating.

Dress for the Weather

A Short Guide to Working Safely in Winter Weather 2022

Of course, breaks alone are not enough to regulate body temperature when working outdoors in the winter. It is also important to dress for the weather, to protect yourself, your extremities, conserve your core body temperature. Thick socks and boots are a must, to keep your feet warm and to maintain traction on potentially slippery surfaces; gloves keep your hands from going numb while handling dangerous equipment; and as the days grow shorter and more work is carried out in the dark, it is important to choose a high-visibility jacket to ensure you remain visible and safe on-site.

Keep Dry Where Possible

Temperature and light are not the only concerns for working outside in the winter months; colder weather also invites an increase in rainfall, making for wet or damp construction sites and an increased level of risk as a result. Without the provision of waterproofs to protect your body, your clothes can become soaked in wet weather, accelerating the rate at which you lose body heat and making for an uncomfortable working experience. As such, you should make sure to keep a large umbrella within reach, or pack waterproof overclothes to protect yourself from the elements.

Incorporate a Buddy System

Buddy systems are an efficient and effective way to ensure the safety of staff on a site in the darker days afforded by the winter. This is especially true for larger construction sites, where a significant cohort of workers are present and active – having workers coupled up and accountable for each other ensures that a given worker’s location is known by at least one person at all times, and that no one is missed in the event of an evacuation.

Take immediate precautions if you hear these words on the news:

  • WINTER STORM WARNING: Severe, life-threatening winter conditions have begun within 24 hours.
  • SPEED WARNING: Sustained winds or frequent gusts of 35 miles per hour or greater and significant snowfall or blowing that reduces visibility to less than a quarter-mile are expected to prevail for three hours or more.
  • WIND CHILL Temperature: The cold that people and animals feel when outside. The wind chill is not actual temperature but rather the sensation of wind and cold on exposed skin.
  • Winter Storm Watch: Winter storm conditions are possible in the next 36 to 48 hours. Check your winter storm plans and stay informed about weather conditions.

A Short Guide to Working Safely in Winter Weather 2023

The safest place in a winter storm is indoors.

  • Check on your relatives, neighbors, and friends, especially if they are elderly or live alone.
  • Assemble an emergency preparedness kit—more details here (in English).
  • Protect Pipes from Freezing.
  • Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows to keep cold air out. Install shutters or plastic wrap windows from the inside to provide an extra insulation layer to keep out cold air.
  • Make sure you have enough fuel for heating. Conserve fuel. Winter storms can last for several days, demanding distribution systems for electricity, gas, and other fuels (oil, propane, etc.). Lower the thermostat to 65°F (18°C) during the day and 55°F (13°C) at night. Close off rooms you don’t use and tuck towels or rags into the cracks under the doors. Cover the windows at night.
  • Stay indoors and wear warm clothing. Layers of loose, light, warm clothing will keep you warmer than a bulky sweater.
A Short Guide to Working Safely in Winter Weather 2022

If you must go outside, protect yourself from the dangers of winter storms:

  • Wear layered clothing or gloves and a hat.
  • Cover your mouth to protect your lungs from the frigid air. Avoid deep breathing; minimize the conversation.
  • Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Stay dry. Change wet clothing frequently to prevent loss of body heat.
  • Avoid overexertion, such as shoveling heavy snow, pushing a vehicle, or walking through deep snow. Cold stress and hard work can cause a heart attack. Sweating could lead to chills and hypothermia.
  • Walk carefully on the snowy and icy sidewalks.

Stay off the road if possible during severe weather. If you have to drive in winter weather, follow these tips:

  • If you have to go out during a winter storm, use public transportation.
  • Keep these items in your vehicle:
    • A windshield wiper and a small broom. A small sandbag generates traction under the wheels and a set of tire chains or traction mats. It matches in a waterproof container. A bright-colored cloth (preferably red) to tie to the antenna.
    • An emergency supply kit, including warm clothing.
  • Keep your vehicle’s tank full to get out immediately in an emergency and prevent the fuel line from freezing.
  • Make sure everyone is wearing a seat belt and give your full attention to the road.
  • Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roads.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  • Don’t run over snowplows.
  • Ramps, bridges, and overpasses freeze before roadways.

A Short Guide to Working Safely in Winter Weather 2023

If you get stranded:

  • Stay in the vehicle and wait for help. Do not leave the car to seek help unless support is visible within 100 yards (91 meters). Can quickly become disoriented and confused in blowing snow.
  • Show a troubling sign to indicate that you need help. Hang a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) on the radio antenna and raise the top when the snow stops.
  • Run the engine from time to time to keep warm. Run the engine for about 10 minutes every hour (or five minutes every half hour). Running the machine for only short periods reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and saves fuel. Use the heater with the engine running. Keep the tailpipe clear of snow and slightly open a downwind window for ventilation.
  • Leave the dome light on when the engine is running so you can be seen.

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A Short Guide to Working Safely in Winter Weather

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