The cold winter months are known for presenting special challenges to construction workers. If you work in the construction industry and you know you will be performing construction work in falling temperatures, you and your fellow co-workers should be aware of basic safety tips that can help prevent injuries resulting from the cold on a California construction site.
One of the benefits of the southern California climate is that snowfall is rare and not likely to be thick. However, this does not mean that ice cannot be a problem in the winter months. Ice can gather on the ground, on ladders and on scaffolds. This is why Construct Connect recommends that construction crews should clear ice from surfaces that workers will set foot on, like roofs, scaffolding, ladders and walkways. If there has been a high wind storm, it is also prudent to check for nearby trees and power lines that have been blown down.
In the event of heavy ice, workers need to take additional steps. If there are icicles formed on high places like scaffolds, it is better to get rid of them early in the day, or later on a worker might break an icicle loose unintentionally and send the ice falling towards workers below. Ice on the ground can be melted by salt or sand to prevent falls. However, if workers cannot melt an icy patch, the area should be marked as a hazard so workers do not slip and fall on it.
Cold weather may also require workers to don additional clothing or safety gear. Hard hats can help protect against falling icicles or the impact of a head on ice if a worker should fall. Wearing gloves helps maintain dexterity with tools and building materials and keep hands warm. Workers can also use special sprays on safety glasses and goggles to keep them from fogging up. Even with added layers, workers may still get very cold, so employers should also provide heaters and a special location like a trailer or indoor space for workers to warm up.
It is also important to take added winter wear into account when workers use safety equipment. If workers are going to be performing tasks on scaffolding, their fall arrest harnesses might not fit over their bodies if they are wearing bulky layers. Some adjusting of the harness will likely be needed to accommodate the workers’ winter clothing. Workers should also make sure the harness itself did not accumulate ice, as this can interfere with the harness operation.
This article is written to educate California readers on construction worker accidents and is not to be taken as legal advice.