Winter Work Safety

Originally published 01/31/2018

When performing construction and other work during the winter season, be mindful of the weather, its effects on the body and proper actions to prevent serious injury, permanent tissue damage or even death. Employers should monitor the weather to keep track of forecasts.

Following are several tips to consider while working outdoors during the winter months:

  • Require proper gear. Workers need to have the right clothing for severe weather, including boots, heavy coats, gloves and hats. Employers should require all workers to wear clothing that will keep them warm and dry to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Also, shoes should have nonslip soles to prevent falling. Consider keeping extra clothing on hand should your clothing get wet.
  • Protect your head, neck and ears. Up to 40 percent of body heat can be lost when the head is exposed.
  • Wear the right gloves for the work you are doing. They should have enough insulation to keep you warm and prevent frostbite, but thin enough so you can feel what you are doing if you are manipulating controls or tools. Avoid putting your hands in your pockets to reduce the risk of falling or losing your balance in case you slip while walking on ice or snow.
  • Keep your safety eyewear from fogging up in the cold. Use anti-fog coatings and wipes that are appropriate for your eyewear.
  • Avoid alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and some medications that inhibit the body’s response to the cold and can impair judgement. These items can increase your heart rate and may cause your blood vessels to constrict. Encourage workers to drink water.
  • Warm up your vehicle to help reduce the moisture condensation on the inside of your car windows. Remember, though, not to warm up your vehicle in a closed area.
  • After a winter storm, immediately report any downed power lines or broken gas lines in your area or workplace.
  • Prepare and identify a warm break area for workers to retreat. It can be a heated trailer or a tent with portable heaters. Always follow proper safety procedures with heating devices.
  • Before work begins, review the area to ensure no new hazards have formed while you were away. Common hazards are snow and ice accumulations or downed power lines and trees.
  • Before work is started on a site, ensure that snow is removed, salt or sand is put down and large patches of ice are chipped away to greatly reduce the risk of injury.
  • All work vehicles should be inspected to determine if they are fully functioning. Winter kits should be added to every vehicle including an ice scraper, snow brush, shovel, tow chain, flashlight with extra batteries, emergency flares, a blanket, snacks, and water.

Taking preventive action is your best defense against having to deal with extreme cold-weather conditions. Prepare in advance, observe safety precautions and reduce your risk of weather-related injury. Safety is being prepared.

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Safety for the Changing Seasons

Originally published 11/08/2017

As the weather gets colder and winter draws near, it’s time to start thinking about taking extra safety precautions when outdoors – whether driving or working on the job site.

Prepare for driving in cold weather.

  • You may find frost and ice on roadways and bridges in the morning. Give yourself some extra time for that drive to work. Keep in mind that bridges and overpasses freeze first.
  • Drive defensively. Watch out for other drivers who may be driving too fast for conditions or have lost control of their vehicles.
  • Make sure your vehicle’s antifreeze is adequate for the temperature.
  • Keep an ice scraper; a shovel; jumper cables; some sand, kitty litter or traction mats and a blanket in your vehicle.
  • Check the tread on your tires. If it’s less than 1/8 of an inch, consider replacing the tires.
  • Check the air tanks on your truck and make sure liquid isn’t building up. Over the winter, air brake lines can freeze if the air tanks aren’t drained.

Dress for working in cold weather.

  • Wear layers of clothing. Many layers of thin garments trap heat better than a few thick ones. You can always discard a layer if it gets warmer.
  • Consider wearing a liner in your hard hat.
  • Consider wearing headbands or hooded jackets to protect your ears.
  • Keep clothes clean and dry.
  • Wear water-resistant boots.
  • Wear windproof outer layers.
  • Wear cotton close to the body.
  • Wear gloves with liners if possible.
  • Consider wearing an extra pair of socks for added warmth.
  • Make sure your safety vest is clean and in good repair. As the days get shorter, early, low-light conditions make it very difficult for passing drivers, equipment operators and other co-workers to see you.

Take additional precautions against cold weather.

  • When possible, take breaks in warm areas.
  • When possible, use approved warming devices. Be cautious of carbon monoxide build up when indoors.
  • Use the buddy system and check on each other regularly.
  • Be cautious of ice buildup on the jobsite. Slip and fall injuries can occur suddenly.
  • When possible, schedule work to avoid being exposed to high-wind conditions.
  • When possible, consider working with your back to the wind.

The best time to prepare for the cold is before you are exposed. Think ahead and be prepared for conditions.

Download the recording form here.

Driving on Snow and Ice

Originally published 01/20/2016

The best advice for driving on snow and ice is to avoid it if you can. If you can’t, it’s important to make sure your vehicle is prepared, and that you know how to handle the road conditions. The following tips will help make your drive safer on snow and ice.

Driving safely on icy roads:

  • Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  • Brake gently to avoid skidding.
  • Turn on your lights so that other drivers can see you.
  • Keep your lights and windshield clean.
  • Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
  • Don’t use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
  • Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads. These areas will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas.
  • Don’t pass snow plows and sand trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you’re likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind them.
  • Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

If your vehicle starts to skid:

  • Remain calm.
  • Take your foot off the accelerator.
  • If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
  • If you have anti-lock brakes, do not pump them, but apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse; this is normal.
  • Steer to safety.

If you get stuck:

  • Use a light touch on the gas to ease your car out.
  • Don’t spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.
  • You may want to try rocking the vehicle. Give a light touch on the gas pedal and then release it. Repeating this action will start a rocking motion and could free your vehicle.
  • If necessary, use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the vehicle.
  • Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels to increase traction.

Keep in mind that winter brings adverse weather conditions. Be prepared to operate your vehicle in a defensive manner, and watch out for other vehicles on the road. Driving on snow and ice can be tricky, but can be done safely. Remember: Think safety and act safely.

Download the recording form here.

Be Prepared for Cold Weather

It’s getting colder, and winter is just around the corner. Now is the time to think about the extra safety precautions you need to take during the winter months, whether driving or working on the jobsite.

Check out these tips for driving in winter weather:

  • Give yourself extra time to drive to work.
  • Use extra caution on bridges and overpasses. Remember that they will freeze first.
  • Drive defensively. Watch out for drivers who may be driving too fast for road conditions, or who may have lost control of their vehicle.
  • Measure the low-temperature protection provided by the antifreeze in your vehicle to avoid frozen radiator and hoses.
  • Keep an ice scraper, shovel, jumper cables, a blanket and some sand, kitty litter or traction mats in your vehicle.
  • Check the tread on your tires. If it’s less than one-eighth of an inch, consider replacing the tires.
  • Check the air tanks on your truck, and make sure liquid isn’t building up. During winter months, air brake lines could freeze because the air tanks weren’t drained. Driving a truck under these conditions is very dangerous.

Dress for working in cold weather:

  • Wear layers of clothing. Many layers of thin garments trap heat better than a few thick ones. You can always remove a layer if you get warmer.
  • Wear a liner in your hard hat.
  • Wear headbands or hooded jackets to protect your ears.
  • Keep clothes clean and dry.
  • Wear water-resistant boots.
  • Wear windproof outer layers.
  • Wear cotton close to the body.
  • Wear gloves with liners, if possible.
  • Wear an extra pair of socks for added warmth.
  • Make sure your safety vest is clean and in good repair. As the days get shorter, early low-light conditions make it very difficult for passing drivers, equipment operators and other co-workers to see you.

When possible, consider taking additional precautions against cold weather:

  • Take breaks in warm areas.
  • Use approved warming devices. Be cautious of carbon monoxide buildup when you are indoors.
  • Use the buddy system, and check on each other regularly.
  • Be cautious of ice buildup on the jobsite. Slip and fall injuries can occur suddenly.
  • Schedule work to avoid being exposed to high-wind conditions.
  • Work with your back to the wind.

The best time to prepare for the cold is before you are exposed. Think ahead, and be prepared for changing conditions. Following these steps can lessen your chances of an accident or injury.

Download the recording form here.