The winter poses many new threats for construction and road maintenance workers. Therefore, we felt that it would be helpful to reiterate key safety protocols to keep employees and equipment out of harms way. “Tips for Safe Winter Operations” by Kelsey Rzepecki, which can be found on “forconstructionpros.com” shares that extreme cold and impaired visibility are two major winter dangers. The article shares that OSHA suggests that all equipment operators are properly trained for safe winter handling. Critically, operators should be familiar and comfortable with safety protocols for using equipment on icy surfaces or in high winds. To further ensure safe use, equipment should be inspected frequently. Rzepecki writes, “The undercarriage of a machine is responsible for 40-60% of its maintenance cost over the machine’s service life, depending on the type of machine.” Routinely checking to make sure that the machine is not only well maintained but also properly winterized could prevent dangerous malfunctions.
Regardless of how well-prepared workers are for winter projects, some dangers are out of their employer’s full control. For example, shortened daylight hours and unexpected snow storms can quickly blind oncoming traffic from noticing the construction site. Rzepecki writes, “Reaction times are drastically reduced in winter due to slippery ad icy road conditions.” This dangerous combination makes it even more important to clearly mark construction sites, equipment, and workers. The article suggests the use of high intensity reflective tape to mark traffic signs and personal protective equipment. It is also noted that reflective stick-on shapes could be added to vehicles, equipment, and even small tools to make them more visible to workers and traffic. Finally, the article suggests that a safe work site can be ensured by conducting a job hazard analysis of work areas, using a winter worksite checklist. The work site should be investigated for uneven surfaces or ditches filled with snow, frozen surfaces, and falling ice among other seasonal and year-round dangers. Hazardous areas should be clearly barricaded and marked with highly reflective materials.
Finally, it is important to make sure that workers have a means to communicate and understand their own concerns. Rzepecki states that workers should be able to recognize warning signs of cold-related illness such as hypothermia and frostbite. It is important to take these warning signs seriously to promote the wellbeing of your employees and your organization. A key way to promote communication and safety in the work place is to install a hotline where employees can report concerns freely and anonymously. Take these steps to promote a safe and successful winter season.