Winter Working in Construction
The construction industry sees more workplace accidents than any other UK industry, and this number increases during the winter months when the harsh winter weather provides more potential risks to construction workers.
Unfortunately, the winter weather is largely unpredictable with strong winds, freezing temperatures, rain, snow, and ice all causing hazards for teams working on construction sites, and that's why it's important to be aware of the risks and put in place precautions and procedures to ensure the safety of operatives is a priority during the winter months.
Construction sites are by nature hazardous environments with heavy machinery, power tools, building materials, and substances increasing the risk of slips, trips, and falls. Add in the harsh winter weather conditions including ice and rain, and the potential for accidents significantly increases if precautions are not implemented.
The most common construction site accidents occur from slips, trips, and falls, and although they happen all year round, the chances of an accident happening is drastically increased if winter working procedures are not in place.
Ways to minimise the risk of accidents from slips, trips, and falls on construction sites during winter include:
- Assessing and identifying areas where risk is increased
- Monitoring the temperature to put in place measures if necessary and prevent accidents
- Place warning signs in areas where slips, trips, and falls occur most
- Grit areas that are prone to the formation of icy surfaces
- Divert pedestrians to less slippery areas if possible and barrier off
Slips, trips, and falls aren't the only risks faced by a construction worker during the winter months, but the cold weather and harsh conditions pose potential health risks to those working outdoors in the construction industry during winter.
Cold stress is one potential hazard to the health of working in the winter and when the temperature falls near or below freezing, this can be severely dangerous to a person's health with a risk of painful joints, fatigue, trench foot, frostbite, and hypothermia occurring if operatives aren't protected from the elements of outside working.
In addition to an increased chance of illness as a result of the wet and cold temperatures, workers that use power tools such as concrete breaker plates and angle grinders increase their risk of HAVs (Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome) during the colder months. It's important that all workers using power tools are adequately trained on how to use their tools and a procedure is put in place to ensure their exposure is monitored and minimised.
Here's what you can do to prevent accidents and illness on construction sites during the winter months:
- Limit worker exposure to elements by shielding work areas from harsh weather where possible
- Monitor the weather reports constantly to ensure there is adequate time to put procedures in place when necessary
- Creating warm break areas for workers to warm up periodically throughout the working day
- Providing workers with correct winter working gear to ensure they are fully insulated and can retain the heat and prevent adverse effects of cold weather on their bodies
- Educate your workers on how to work safely during the winter months including frequent site visits to ensure protocols are being followed
Glanville Training Academy provides a range of Health and Safety Awareness courses to ensure construction companies and their workers are adequately trained in all aspects of Health and Safety within the industry and appropriately prepared for working in the winter months.