Cold Weather Safety Tips for General Contractors

Cold Weather Safety Tips for General Contractors

Just because the weather makes you go “Brrr!” doesn’t mean you get a break. Contractors and subcontractors are no exception. The issue with this kind of work though, as opposed to say, being a bartender or barista, is that a lot of contracting work involves being outside and exposed to the elements.

Ice and snow can be dangerous and protection from strong winds and incredibly low temperatures is a must. As a general rule of thumb, here are 10 rules that you, as a contractor, should follow if you want your workers to be healthy and safe throughout the cold season.

Ice and Snow Should be Removed Before Work Starts

Ice and snow can equal danger and injury. To avoid any hazardous obstacles for the subcontracting team, make absolutely certain that all ice and snow has been shoveled away and any large patches have been thoroughly salted.

Be Careful When Shoveling

The act of shoveling away snow and ice can become its own safety risk. Shoveling can cause an increased risk of heart attack, especially in older people or those with preexisting health issues.

It’s best to shovel snow as soon as it stops falling so that it is lighter and isn’t frozen over. If you feel light-headed or any pain in your chest, stop shoveling immediately. Do not use a snow shovel with a pan that is too large as it can result in you overexerting yourself. The shovel you use should be proportional to your body size.

Don’t Drink Coffee

This one is probably going to disappoint a lot of people – but drinking coffee when it’s cold doesn’t really do you as many favors as you’d think. Coffee increases the heart rate which in turn only gives the illusion that you’re warm, while in reality, you aren’t. Instead, stick to water; it will keep you hydrated, which is critical, regardless of the weather.

Winter Gear Is an Absolute Must

Working outside in cold weather needs specialized gear. Workers should be required to wear hats, gloves, heavy coats and boots if they’re going to be doing tasks that will expose them to the elements. Being properly dressed can help them keep warm and dry which will help to prevent hypothermia and frostbite.

Limit Time Outside and Stay Warm

Keeping on top of what each day’s forecast is can go a long way toward fulfilling this one. Knowing what the weather will be like can help you plan your crew’s schedule around the temperature. As an example, scheduling outside work during the warmest part of the day (if possible) could help limit cold-related illnesses quite a bit.

You may also have to help your team build up a tolerance for being outdoors for a smaller period of time. A good way to accomplish this would be to allow periodic breaks inside of a warm location.

Have Workers Partner Up

Working in groups of two can be a huge help in spotting if a teammate is injured or potentially coming down with a case of hypothermia. The signs of hypothermia can be hard to spot at first glance, but if someone close enough sees their co-worker becoming confused or shivering really hard, they can help to address it before it becomes life-threatening. A good way to help mitigate any issues during an emergency is to provide your crew with two-way radios in case they need assistance.

Use Eye Protection

When working in an environment covered in snow, it’s important to be wary of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Snow can reflect over 80% of UV light and can result in snow blindness – a painful corneal sunburn that can result in blindness for approximately 72 hours. To prevent this, have your team wear eyeglasses with tinted lenses made to block UV rays.

Inspect the Work Site Every Day

Cold weather is often random and capricious, so changes can happen literally overnight. You should check over the work site each day to be sure that there are no new obstacles that can cause harm to the workers.

Prep Vehicles for Cold Weather

Each and every vehicle should be fully inspected to make sure that they are in proper working order. Adding winter kits to each vehicle is also a must, as they can save someone’s life in the event of an accident or becoming stranded. A basic winter kit should consist of:

• Tow chain
• Emergency flare
• Snacks
• Water
• Blankets
• Flashlight
• Extra Batteries
• Ice scraper

Hand Sanitizing Should Be Mandatory

Cold weather can wreak havoc on a person’s immune system, but one way to lessen the chances of this making your workers sick is for them to keep their hands clean. They should have easy access to hand sanitizers and disinfectant wipes to keep illnesses from spreading while on the job.

Being a subcontractor can be a dangerous job and the last thing they need is for nature to make it even harder. Although you can’t really do anything about the cold, you can help reduce the threats that it can bring about. If this list gave you a bit of inspiration, let us know, we like hearing from you and listening to your feedback!