Cold Weather Safety Precautions For Construction Professionals

wintersafetyThe long, warm, and beautiful days of spring and summer are over. Winter has officially forced us to feel its embrace. Many states have started experiencing their first period of snowy weather. Other states are currently experiencing extremely cold below freezing temperatures. For people working outdoors especially construction workers, cold weather conditions can prove to be extremely risky.

The Occupational Heath and Safety Administration (OSHA) offers various resources for construction professionals relating to how to work safely in cold weather conditions. It is crucial work site leaders plan ahead and develop action plans to address weather changes.  OSHA suggests individual workers take responsibility and adhere to certain precautions during winter months. Each year, the agency issues guidelines such as those included below to workers regarding cold weather safety. This information can also be accessed from the agency’s website http://ww.osha.gov.

  • Become familiar with environmental and workplace conditions that lead to cold-induced injuries and illness.
  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of cold-induced illnesses and injuries.
  • Select appropriate clothing for cold weather conditions.
  • Rest and take break periods in a warm environment.
  • Drink warm, sweet beverages (sugar water, sports-type drinks).

Safety should be a high priority during the winter months. It is critical workers are also familiar with the signs and symptoms of specific conditions that can result from extended exposure to cold weather such as frostbite and hypothermia.  According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, hypothermia is a dangerous lowering of a  person’s body temperature. Symptoms include disorientation, slurred speech, drowsiness,  uncontrolled shivering, and confused behavior. When you observe a co-worker with these symptoms, OSHA suggests taking the following actions:

  • Call for emergency help-911
  • Move the person to a warm area.
  • Give the individual a warm sweet drink (sugar water or sports-type drink).
  • Move the individual’s arms and legs to create muscle heat, if possible.

Frostbite occurs when skin actually freezes. Usually, it affects the nose, ears, fingers and toes. When attempting to take care of someone with frostbite, OSHA provides several suggestions:

  • Seek medical attention.
  • Move to a warm area.
  • Remove any wet or tight clothing that may cut off blood flow to the affected area.
  • Do not rub the affected area.
  • Gently place affected area in warm water for 25-40 minutes.

OSHA offers various educational resources and materials online that address cold weather safety. In addition, www.webmd.com provides health information on conditions significant to cold weather as well as related treatment suggestions.