5 safety considerations for your construction site this winter

ppe for building sites

Harriet Orme is from tool and personal protection equipment (PPE) specialists Zoro.

Here, she shares five safety considerations you should be thinking about for your construction site this winter.

We all know how unpredictable the UK weather can be, especially during winter when the cold temperatures bring slippery snow, ice and strong winds. And, when you work in construction these things can increase site accidents, injuries and potential fatalities. So, you’ll need to take some measures to prepare your construction site for these climates ahead of the cold weather setting in.

Here, I’ll be sharing five key safety measures you should implement this winter to keep your workers safe.

Provide a heated break area
Breaks are a legal requirement for all employees, but when you’ve got a team of construction workers who are working outside in harsh weather conditions, it’ll be important to allow breaks more frequently. Being too cold can cause numbness in your workers hands and bodies, as well as a loss of concentration, which could result in accidents and injuries on site. So, help your staff to beat the winter chill with a heated break area where they can warm up and rest at various points during the day.

If it’s safe to do so, it might also be a good idea to place some external heaters around the site for the workers to quickly warm up when they need to. These could also help to melt any ice, sleet or snow and reduce any slip hazards around the work area.

Equip them with PPE

When your staff are working around building materials and machinery, it’s incredibly important that you equip them with substantial PPE. And, when winter hits, you also need to be aware of any additional things you should provide.

You have to think about what protective clothing to give them to keep the chill out, while ensuring that this doesn’t restrict their movement. Layers will be key in doing this, as they can add more when they’re feeling the cold and take some off when they begin to warm up. All of their clothes and footwear should be waterproof to ensure they’re equipped for the unpredictable British weather, and you might even want these to be thermal lined for maximum body heat retention.

As your workers will be used to working at heights, it’s a given they’ll already have helmets. But, when winter hits and their ears and faces are exposed to whipping winds, it’ll be important to provide them with helmet liners, balaclavas and earmuffs to keep them insulated. They’ll also need gloves to keep their hands warm: thermal gripper gloves will ensure they’re protected from chills as well as providing a good grip. As the dark settles in faster during winter, don’t forget high-vis clothing to boost visibility and reduce injury around your site.

Add additional lighting

In a workplace where there is heavy machinery and power tools, it’s key that there’s enough visibility around the whole site. As the darker hours start to set in earlier, you’ll need to install additional lighting to reduce any trips, falls and other hazards.

If you’ve got construction vehicles on site, attaching lights to these will not only ensure the driver can see any people in the way, but will warn other workers that it is on the move. There are options for static lighting which you can attach to poles or masts, as well as portable lighting that can be moved depending on where you require illumination at a specific time. 

Whether you choose festoon lighting or bulkhead lamps, just make sure that they are weatherproof and are not in positions that will disrupt neighbouring areas. 

Use warning signage

When visibility is reduced, whether that’s through fog, rain or darkness, you’ll need warning signage around your construction site. This is particularly important if you will have vehicles manoeuvring around the work area that will need to be aware of any sharp turns and steep hills for a more controlled drive.

Additionally, you should be using signage to inform workers of any particularly slippery, steep or uneven areas in the vicinity to reduce trips, slips or falls. You might even want to close certain pathways off if you think they’ll pose as a hazard, so signs will be needed to make it clear that these are off limits.

Teach them about cold stress

Cold stress can be extremely disruptive to your workforce, especially if it goes unnoticed and isn’t reported. Part of keeping your staff safe during winter will include preparing them for the cold temperatures ahead and teaching them to acknowledge when things aren’t right.

Cold stress can be caused by cold temperatures, high or cold winds and wet weather, and if left undealt with could result in trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia. This makes it particularly important to train them for using their PPE, and ensuring they are confident with it before they begin work in the winter.

Winter can bring many more hazards and dangers to your construction site including cold stress, higher risks of trips and falls, as well as reduced visibility. But, with these top five safety tips and some forward planning, you can work towards a safer environment for your staff throughout the cold weather.