We might be done with winter, but it’s clearly not done with us just yet. While we’ve been fortunate to experience a somewhat mild winter here in some areas of the country, others have been hit with deep freezes and record snowfall. All said, work still needs to get done and construction projects must forge ahead to meet deadlines and demands. But as winter conditions continue, are your workers still being adequately protected from the elements?
It’s important to keep your workers safe from the hazards of the cold, including the hazards we can’t visibly see. Wind chill can be detrimental to those working outdoors and have a significant impact on their well-being and performance. The wind can take away the body’s protective boundary layer (a thin layer of air close to the skin that the body uses to keep itself warm).
Once the boundary layer is lost, the body uses up more energy to protect itself by creating another one, but as the wind keeps blowing it away, the skin temperature drops, and we feel the cold more. To keep workers safe and avoid hypothermia, these challenges must be counterbalanced by proper insulation, like layered protective clothing and personal protective equipment designed for these conditions. In addition, it is critical to control workers’ exposure to the cold with a work/rest schedule and ensure sufficient physical activity. Here are 5 tips to help keep your workers protected.
1. Properly layered clothing will help workers stay warm and dry. Each layer should be larger than the next layer, to prevent the outer layer from compressing the inner layers and decreasing the insulation properties of the clothing. The inner layers should wick moisture away from the skin to help keep it dry, so recommend to employees that they look for materials like polyester or polypropylene, when selecting inner layers such as thermal underwear.
2. A large portion of body heat is lost from the head, and ears are a common location for frostbite. Wearing a hat is important for workers to keep warm, and there are many types available. If a worker is required to wear a hard hat, ensure they have an appropriate winter liner, and the headband is readjusted to maintain the appropriate fit.
3. Feet can be one of the first body parts to feel the impact of cold weather. The right sock, or combination of socks, help feet stay dry and warm. Thick socks can help to insulate feet, and if two socks are preferred, a moisture-wicking inner layer and a thicker outer sock is the best solution. Once socks become damp, their insulation properties dramatically decrease, so having dry socks available to change to between shifts is important in wet conditions.
4. Before starting to work outdoors, ensure your team is not only prepared for their assigned work but the weather conditions. Check that they are wearing the proper protective clothing and start each shift with a stretching session to help prevent the risk of injury from cold muscles.
5. Regularly checking in with workers to see how they are feeling, and how they are being impacted by the temperature is essential. If workers are out in the cold for too long or not adequately protected from the elements, they may be at risk for mild to severe injuries or conditions, including frostbite or hypothermia.
Always monitor the conditions and take every reasonable precaution to protect the health and safety of your employees. It’s not just the law; it’s the right thing to do.
For more information on how you can keep your entire crew healthy and safe, connect with us here.