Cold temperatures can have a negative affect on your construction crew. Not only can the discomfort slow reflexes and make work harder to complete in a timely manner, but it can also pose safety dangers like frostbite and hypothermia. Fortunately, there are strategies that you can implement on the jobsite to ensure the work is moving along while also keeping your crew safe and healthy.
1. Supply Cold Weather Gear
The right gear helps prevent a lot of cold weather concerns. Often, it's the head that is overlooked when it comes to staying warm since most crew members may just throw on their hard hat and hope for the best. To prevent the loss of body heat through the head, invest in a supply of hard hat liners for your crew. These liners add an insulating layer inside the hat, and many of the liners also come with face shields that will keep the rest of the face and neck warm as well.
Other pieces of gear that will aid in keeping the crew warm include insulated work gloves and waterproof cold-weather construction jackets. If you don't supply jackets but do supply safety vests, keep a supply of larger vests on hand so that they will fit over the bulk of a warmer jacket.
2. Require Health Breaks
It's no secret that your crew members are tough and will likely keep working even if they are uncomfortable. After all, discomfort is just part of the job when one works outside. For this reason, it can be up to the management staff to enforce health breaks. Crew members in less active roles, such as the people working the flags, will be more susceptible to cold injury, so they may require more frequent check-ins.
Train the crew on health concerns to check for during these breaks. Verse everyone on the symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia, and instruct the crew to check themselves and crewmates for these signs on the health breaks. Frostbite, for example, often begins with tingling and numbness in an extremity that is followed by white or blue discoloration of the skin. Hypothermia often begins with uncontrolled shivering, clumsiness, and problems talking clearly.
3. Provide Warming Stations
Health breaks, as well as normally scheduled breaks, should take place in a warm area. This area can be set up in a construction trailer, or you can use a small site tent or canopy as the warming center. Position portable construction heaters inside or around the break area so everyone can warm up.
Further, use portable heaters to set up a few other warming stations throughout the site. Heaters can be placed near a flag station, for example, to prevent hypothermia during the long hours of minimal movement. Generally, you can use a heater anywhere that won't result in fire danger, which can help ensure no crew member has to be exposed to freezing temperatures for long.
With some planning and care, cold-weather work can progress as easily and safely as work during fair weather.