Oh the Weather Outside Is Frightful
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“…It doesn’t show signs of stopping. But construction jobs are still popping. Keep your jobsite risks down low. And follow the tips below.”
As kids, we all loved snow days, but now, winter weather presents a host of difficulties for construction companies. There are safety concerns, OSHA regulations to comply with, potential liability risks, attendance confusion and pay-related issues to address. It’s important to be prepared for all scenarios associated with inclement weather, and to make sure employees are properly informed of all relevant policies and procedures.
Working in the extreme cold can be dangerous for employees, and precipitation and wind exacerbate that danger. OSHA has issued guidelines offering precautionary measures to prevent cold stress, which can lead to tissue damage, hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot – conditions that can cause serious injury or death. Factors that contribute to cold stress are: cold air temperatures, high velocity air movement, dampness of the air and contact with cold water or surfaces. Therefore, it’s important to remember that even temperatures of 50 degrees with enough rain and wind can cause cold stress.
Preventing Cold Stress
In addition to proper training, there are several precautions that employees should take while working in cold or dangerous weather:
- Take breaks to get warm
- Drink plenty of liquids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Avoid smoking, which constricts blood flow to skin
- Be aware of any cold weather related side-effects that their medication may have
- Know and understand symptoms of cold-related illnesses and injuries
- Stretch before physical work to prevent muscle pulls and injuries
- Wear protective clothing:
- At least three layers: something close to skin to wick moisture away, an insulation layer and an outer wind and waterproof layer (outer layers should be loose to allow ventilation and prevent overheating)
- Hat or hood
- Insulated boots
- Gloves – not only can the cold cause injuries to exposed skin, but cold hands also make one more prone to injury when handling machinery or other objects
Note: OSHA requires employers to pay only for protective gear that’s out of the ordinary; employees are responsible for everyday clothing like those listed above.
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