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Working Construction During the Winter: What You Will Need

November 30, 2015


Just because the snow begins to fall doesn’t mean that construction work stops. When there is a deadline to meet and a contract on the line, brave workers must endure the extreme cold weather to get the job done on time. Winter makes for unique working conditions, however, and it is imperative for the safety of the employees and the integrity of the project and company that everyone is properly equipped. Here’s what you will need when working any type of outdoor construction during the winter.

Layered Protective Clothing—and Bring Extras

Ideally, you should have at least three layers of proper protective clothing to stay warm. Be wise in the choice of fabrics by taking into consideration your surroundings. For example, cotton might feel warm at first, but it serves poorly as insulation as soon as it gets wet. Choose clothing made of wool, silk, or synthetics if becoming wet is of any concern. These materials help to wick away moisture from the body. It is just as important to prevent overheating by making sure the clothing is comfortable, but not tight fitting, and the outer layer serves as protection from the wind and rain to offer ventilation. Bring an extra set of clothing in case something happens, and your original set gets wet or otherwise damaged and unusable.

Hats, Boots, and Gloves

Heat escapes from your head quickly, so keep your whole body warmer by wearing a hood or a hat, preferably one that covers the whole head and extends down around the ears. For the feet, choose some high-quality, sturdy, steel-toe snow boots or the best-quality snow footwear the job allows. Keep your fingers warm by selecting sturdy, rugged, insulated winter work gloves that repel water, but still allow finger dexterity.

Safety Equipment

The layered clothing, headwear, hand-wear, and footwear should work with any required safety equipment, including eye protection and hard hats. Wear aprons and hearing protection as necessary, especially when working with tools or heavy machinery. Another must-have item is an extensive first-aid kit that includes supplies for addressing symptoms of cold stress.

Cold Stress Symptom Education

Any winter workers who have not yet received training on the symptoms of cold stress should look into some education, even if it’s just researching the topic themselves. Any worker exposed to an extremely cold environment is at risk of developing cold stress, which can include conditions such as hypothermia, frostbite, chilblains, trench foot, and cold water immersion. The temperature doesn’t even necessarily have to fall below freezing in order to develop these conditions. Symptoms such as uncontrollable shivering, confusion, loss of coordination, numbness, tingling, aching, discolored skin, pain, or bleeding should not be dismissed and may require immediate attention. Employers can help protect winter workers by scheduling jobs for the warmest times of day, providing warm beverages or soups, offering warm break areas, and using plenty of relief workers for longer jobs.

Every job has its hazards, but working construction in the winter requires extra special care. Make sure you’re well equipped in each of these areas, and your winter construction jobs should proceed relatively smoothly with your safety at the forefront.

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