With the winter weather now back in full force, it is important outdoor construction workers understand what precautions need to be taken to ensure they remain safe on site.
As we head into winter, icy weather and shorter periods of daylight mean there is more potential for accidents to occur on construction sites. As well as the risk of slips and falls, prolonged exposure to the cold can cause outdoor workers to suffer from more colds, bronchitis, asthma, painful joints and fatigue. In extreme cases, workers outside for long periods, without the right protection, could even suffer hypothermia and frostbite.
Yet, it is important to remember that these risks don’t only affect builders, roofers and other trades, they can also have an impact on staff working outside in building and timber yards. For them, particular concerns include using ladders and mechanical access equipment in slippy conditions, manual handling in cold weather, hand-arm vibration syndrome from hand tools, not wearing the right PPE and icy walkways.
This year, our winter safety campaign is raising awareness of these risks, giving advice on how outdoor workers, including merchants, can protect themselves in winter.
As well as making sure all employees working in building and timber yards are following the advice, merchants are ideally placed to educate customers about winter safety. This could also be a good opportunity to highlight the products that they stock, such as gloves, thermals, heated jackets and shoe grips.
So, what is the advice?
In the UK, there is no legal minimum outdoor working temperature. So, it is important that all outdoor construction workers understand the hazards of working in winter and know what precautions to take when cold weather sets in. Surprisingly, the risks of cold weather actually start to increase at relatively mild temperatures and it doesn’t have to be snowing before they need to protect themselves. For example, a 20mph wind can make a temperature of 10°C feel like zero.
What precautions should merchants and their customers take?
Yard and site managers ….
- Monitor the weather forecast so you can anticipate and be prepared for poor weather conditions. Carry out a risk assessment every day to check it is safe to work and conditions haven’t changed. Pay particular attention to working at height platforms and do not work on roofs in icy conditions – this is a requirement of the Working at Height Regulations 2005.
- Carry out a risk assessment every day to check it is safe to work and conditions haven’t changed. Pay particular attention to working at height platforms, ladders and walkways.
- If windy, the HSE recommends that roofers should check wind speeds with a hand-held anemometer and refer to the NFRC guidance – ‘Roofing and Cladding in Windy Conditions’.
- Make sure workers are trained on winter hazards and ensure they have the appropriate PPE.
- Limit worker exposure to cold through job rotation and provide plenty of breaks in heated areas with hot drinks available.
For site workers and yard staff ….
- Make sure you are wearing the right PPE and extra clothing suitable for the job and the weather conditions. This usually involves using several layers of clothing, as well as waterproofs or wind resistant fabrics where necessary. Also, choose water-resistant footwear, with enhanced slip resistance or ice grips if required.
- Wear gloves when fine manual dexterity is not required and the temperature drops below 4°C.
- Cold weather increases the risk of hand-arm vibration syndrome, so keep your hands and arms warm when using vibratory equipment such as drills, nails guns and even hand tools, such as hammers.
- Choose hats that work with safety headgear and don’t compromise any eye or hearing protection.
- Be aware of the symptoms of cold exposure – heavy shivering, uncomfortable coldness, numbness, aching, severe fatigue, confusion, drowsiness and/or euphoria.
- With reduced daylight hours, visibility can be a problem, so wear reflective PPE.
- Take breaks in heated areas and drink plenty of fluids, including water and warm beverages.
- Report any hazardous areas to the site or yard manager and do not put yourself at risk just to complete a job.
To help prepare for freezing temperatures, Marley is giving away hundreds of winter goodies.
To apply for one of 500 free flasks, heat pads or ear bands, visit www.marley.co.uk/wintercampaign and fill in your details.