When temperatures start to drop and snow threatens to fall along our roadways, it’s only natural that individuals would stay indoors as much as possible. However, when you work as a road construction professional, this simply isn’t an option. Though fewer projects start during the winter season, some are too important to put off until the snow thaws. This is why it’s crucial that those working in this industry know how to protect themselves from the hazards the cold presents. Use these cold weather construction safety tips to gain the upper hand in the struggle against the elements.
Why Change Safety Practices for the Winter?
Though the first few snowfalls might not be much of a threat, once the snow starts to accumulate, it can bring about a whole range of issues for a project. For starters, many pieces of heavy machinery don’t function well in the cold and can malfunction as a result of the stress. The temperatures are also problematic for workers themselves. After all, the human body isn’t capable of withstanding below-freezing temperatures for very long, and individuals may develop several dangerous conditions as a result.
It’s important to mention as well that traffic accidents are much more common during these months, as icy and slushing roadways make it difficult for drivers to control their vehicles. Therefore, it’s crucial that crews adjust their roadwork safety procedures during this time of year to better accommodate these risks.
Ways To Stay Safe While Working in the Cold
Now that we’ve covered the overall importance of changing your safety regulations, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with a few methods to mitigate these hazards. There are several ways you can protect yourself while on the job, but most methods involve taking proper precautions against the climate and using your equipment in the proper manner. These are some winter construction safety tips to keep in mind:
Keep an Eye on the Weather
Storms become increasingly common during the latter half of the year. This, combined with the lowered temperatures, make for a mess that you don’t want to get caught in. As such, it’s crucial that you’re monitoring the weather prior to heading out each day. Not only does this let you know what to expect, it helps you best prepare for that day’s conditions. Keeping an eye out for storms will also indicate to you when it’s time to have the team pack up for the day.
Set Up a Heated Break Area
As we mentioned above, prolonged exposure to the cold can result in the development of a few potentially life-threatening conditions. Frostbite and extreme fatigue are two of these ailments. Because of this, workers must take their regularly scheduled breaks and should use this time to warm up. This is the best way to prevent injury and stave off any potential symptoms from the cold. So, it’s recommended that you establish a designated break area to provide shelter and warm beverages if needed.
Layer on Clothing
Make sure you’re wearing thicker clothing in addition to your standard personal protection equipment. While these PPE items are designed to be strong and resistant to impacts, they aren’t as protective against colder temperatures. As such, you’ll need to find other ways to help reduce heat loss from your body. This could mean wearing thermal long-sleeved shirts and pants under your standard work clothes or using accessories such as earmuffs to better protect your more vulnerable areas. Wearing lightweight clothing in several layers has proven the most effective.
Some additional garments you should wear on the construction site include:
- Insulated work gloves
- Warm hats
- Thick-soled work boots
- Winter coats
- Face guards
Increase Defenses Against Traffic
In addition to protecting yourself from the cold, it’s also crucial that you’re increasing the defenses around the construction zone. Snowstorms mean limited visibility and ample opportunity to swerve dangerously close to the job site. So, heavy traffic barrels and barricades will be especially important to block the impact of an accident and keep vehicles from hitting a worker. Lane change signage will also be essential in helping cars navigate away from the construction site itself, thereby reducing their chances of coming into contact with your crew.
Slow Everything Down
You’ll also want the working flagger to slow down traffic depending on the current weather conditions. Though the passing drivers might be annoyed at the delay, cars are easier to control when they’re moving at slower speeds. For this reason, the safest way to direct motorists through your construction zone is to force them to move at a more manageable pace. This will further reduce the likelihood of an accident in low-visibility conditions and make traffic easier to direct overall.
Use the Buddy System
Another recommended safety precaution for the winter months is to work while using the buddy system. This means only operating machinery with the aid of another worker and having someone else nearby to watch out for you when working in particularly dangerous areas. This method guarantees that someone is always there to take action should you get hurt and ensures that you’re there to do the same for your partner. So, make sure to pair up before stepping foot on the job site.
Warm Up Equipment and Tools
Lastly, take some time to warm up your equipment and tools prior to starting your work. Though it might not be apparent on the surface, metal materials become extremely brittle in cold weather. This can make them impossible to hold bare-handed and much more difficult to run upon startup. Therefore, if you want to keep these devices from breaking down, it’s important that you allow them a few minutes to warm up before using them.
With the harsh winter months on the horizon, it’s crucial that you have everything you need to keep yourself and your coworkers safe on the hazardous roads. This is why our team at Traffic Safety Zone seeks to supply only the highest quality traffic safety equipment for your road management needs. Whether it be sturdy traffic barricades, reflective construction signs, or arrow boards, our inventory is fully equipped with the tools that will ensure you’re seen and protected. Check out our extensive product lines, or give us a call to learn more.