As the rain and cold weather start blowing across the eastern seaboard, construction workers should take particular care in bundling up. Not only can wet, windy weather pose a slipping hazard on beams and other metal surfaces, falling temperatures can compromise grip strength, weaken supports, and even cause workers to become disoriented or dizzy. These factors come together to create a perfect storm of injury risks—even on a clear, cold day.
Why Are Construction Site Falls More Likely in Cold Weather?
Workers who are most at risk of suffering cold-related injuries are those assigned to exterior jobs, such as painting, welding, and glass installation. Working on any open floor can also increase the risk of cold injuries, since employees are not completely isolated from the weather. All crews should be aware of the following activities during cold-weather months:
- Working at a height. A strong wind at ground level only increases the higher you go up, putting workers on height platforms or performing roof work in a precarious position. If the weather is rainy or has the potential for freezing temperatures, height work should be suspended until the weather clears. If work is absolutely necessary, additional safety controls should be used, such as harnesses and platform edge protection.
- Slipping and tripping. Work surfaces may be slippery from rain and ice, so regular gritting and salting should be applied in bad weather. Any hoses or pipes should be fully disconnected and drained to help avoid frozen puddles on walkways.
- Stairway falls. All areas leading to and from a construction site should be monitored for ice, sleet, or storm debris. A worker‘s grip may be compromised due to the cold, so all railings should be kept clear and as dry as possible.
- Cold-related stress. Even if there are no other hazards present, workers who are experiencing cold stress may suffer falls due to overworking in extreme temperatures. Wind, water, and snow all draw heat from the body, placing additional stress on the body to work harder to stay warm. If a worker does not take breaks to refuel and warm up, he may simply faint from exposure.
Employers should help reduce fall risks by providing gloves, eye protection, barriers for slippery materials, straw and hay bales for mud prevention, and mats to avoid slips on concrete. If workers are forced to work many hours through cold conditions, companies must provide adequate welfare facilities, such as a dedicated area where workers may go to eat, get hot beverages, and change into dry clothes. If you suffered an exposure injury or weather-related fall, fill out the short contact form on this page to tell us your story.