After the official start of winter, many assume that all construction workers hibernate for the season, and that just isn’t true. While there is significantly less field work — and essentially no road work — being completed during the winter months, there are still projects that can press on.
Winter blizzards or hazardous ice certainly can hamper work, but snow and cold weather alone do not stop construction.
Our team is currently working on a project in Iowa, where significant snow already has fallen, and we are continuing to make headway. Although working in blustery and cold conditions is less favorable than a moderate summer day, thanks to advances in construction technology and materials, crews are able to work into the winter season.
Working on outdoor projects in the winter, when temperatures begin the plummet and the winds pick up, can present a lot of different challenges. Safety is paramount when dealing with the elements, so our team always keeps the following in mind:
Knowing what weather you will be dealing with is a good first step in protecting your team. There are certain times when it is just not possible to work outside. You also should always keep a close eye on temperatures and try to schedule critical work items during the warmest part of the day.
Wear proper winter gear
When working outside in cold temperatures, it is important that you wear clothing that will keep you dry and warm. Wearing multiple layers of loose clothing will create an insulating effect, as opposed to tight clothing that inhibits circulation. Proper foot gear that will help to avoid slipping on ice or snow also is key.
Limit exposure and prepare
Be sure to schedule in several breaks for your team throughout the day and provide a warm area where they can rest. Working in cold weather depletes the body’s resources more quickly than normal, so eating healthy foods that are high in calories and carbohydrates will contribute to energy sources.
Know the symptoms
Hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot are the most common cold-related health concerns, so it is important that your team is properly trained to recognize the characteristics and symptoms of these injuries. This will help workers recognize changes in their own body, as well as their coworkers’. Implementing a buddy system, where crew members can look out for one another, is a great practice during the colder months.
Given that there will undoubtedly be times that it is not possible to work outside, there are plenty of things that those in the construction industry can do to keep themselves busy or focused, including:
- Completing safety training courses for certifications that have expired or you would like to add to your resume.
- Attending industry trade shows and conferences to stay up to date on recent trends.
- Networking with other industry professionals in order to connect with possible future customers or business partners.
- Taking time to relax and re-energize, as construction work can be tough on the body and mind.
Winter construction is sometimes challenging, so the most important part of working well into the colder months is ensuring your team has properly planned ahead and has safety protocols in place.