You sometimes envy office workers who brave the cold for a few moments before going into a warm, dry workplace. As a construction worker, that kind of luxury just isn’t an option. There’s only so much you can do to protect yourself from cold weather—especially while hanging from a platform. Is there anything your employer could be doing to make your job safer in the winter?
How Cold Temperature Injuries Can Be Prevented on a Jobsite
While both workers and employers are responsible for preventing cold weather injuries on a construction site, employers have a duty to train workers and ensure compliance with all safety protocols. As a result, employers may be held liable if an employee does not:
- Wear proper clothing. Workers should wear at least three or more layers of clothing to protect them from the elements. It is important to ensure that no clothing interferes with mobility.
- Protect extremities. Extra care should be taken to protect the hands (wearing gloves), feet (using heavy-duty insulated boots), and head (knit cap or bandana beneath a hard hat).
- Stay hydrated. Workers should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration in cold temperatures. Employers should also provide regular breaks for warm beverages.
- Eat more often. The body has to work harder to stay warm in cold environments, so it is vital that workers do not skip meals. In fact, employees who work more than four hours in cold environments should increase their daily caloric intake by at least 10 percent.
- Take a break. Additional breaks should be implemented every few hours to allow workers to warm up in an indoor area, especially if temperatures drop, the weather worsens, or the wind velocity increases.
- Warm the workspace. Employers should provide effective means of controlling the temperature as much as possible, such as using heaters, erecting temporary walls to shield workers from winds and drafts, and insulating equipment handles and railings.
- Work smarter. Foremen should take care to minimize cold exposure by scheduling outdoor work at peak weather times.
- Receive training. All employees should be made aware of the risks and symptoms of cold-related stress, including heavy shivering, confusion, drowsiness, and muscle fatigue.
- Work in pairs. The “buddy system” can help prevent falls and cold stress injuries, as well as encourage a quick response in an emergency.
- Stop working. If an employee is exhausted or unable to work effectively due to the cold, he must be able to take a break without fear of retribution.
Did your employer neglect to take any of the actions above? Leave a comment below to tell others your story, or click the link on this page to read through our FREE book, What the Injured Worker Needs to Know: Your Workers’ Comp Guide.