When we think of safety threats due to weather on the job site, heat exhaustion, lighting and high winds are usually some of the first conditions that come to mind. Especially with the exceptionally high heat that is currently being experienced in the southern region of the U.S., contractors often focus on preparing and recognizing the signs of heat exhaustion, stroke and dehydration. That being stated, the winter months are just around the corner, and it doesn’t take arctic conditions for the cold to pose a threat to the safety of your crews. For this reason, OSHA provides a plethora of information on cold stress and other winter weather related hazards that can be useful for any roofing and construction company.
According to OSHA, cold stress is easily prevented, but often the risk goes unnoticed. Especially in warmer climates, cold stress is not usually factored into the equation when assessing job site safety. Cold stress occurs by driving down the skin temperature, and eventually the internal body temperature. Once the body is at a level where it can no longer warm itself, serious cold-related illnesses and injuries can occur and lead to permanent tissue damage or worse. Types of cold stress include but are not limited to trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia.
Prevention is possible through training. Crews should know how to recognize environmental and workplace conditions that can cause cold stress, as well as the symptoms and how to treat workers. Additionally, crews should be educated on proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions, and it is the employer’s responsibility to confirm and provide uniforms when necessary to meet the climate requirements.
Employers should monitor weather conditions and the wind chill temperature so that they can properly gauge workers’ exposure risk and plan how to safely perform under daily conditions. It is also important for employers to make appropriate adjustments such as scheduling short breaks in warm areas, providing warm beverages and scheduling projects at the warmest part of the day.
As with anything in safety, prevention is key, so it is vital that Construction Managers stay informed – NOAA provides multiple ways to stay abreast of the latest weather conditions. If notified of a winter storm watch, advisory or warning, follow instructions from your local authorities.
Regardless of the season or weather conditions, safety should be a number one priority on the job. By having a plan and ensuring that your crews are following precautions, you can rest assured knowing that your team will have a safe and productive season ahead.
For more guidelines and tips from OSHA on Winter safety and precautions, visit OSHA’s Winter Weather page. To secure the latest safety training for your crews and strengthen your own safety programs, policies and procedures, contact Brauner Safety Services.