As winter approaches, harsher weather conditions will undoubtedly begin to wreak havoc on your construction site. From keeping belongings and equipment dry to encouraging workers to stay safe, today, we are offering you our most essential tips and tricks for weatherproofing a site to ensure it is winter-ready - rain, wind or snow.
Make safety an early priority
With adverse weather comes news warnings, public transport hiccups and the very occasional snowball fight - but for construction workers, it can cause their surroundings to become a somewhat more dangerous place. Slippery surfaces, strained equipment and scaffolding, and freezing temperatures all present their own challenges when it comes to keeping a construction site safe - so take the necessary steps to counter them as early as possible, so that your site is safer come winter.
Encourage weather-suitable clothing
One of the greatest difficulties facing construction workers in the winter months is the often freezing cold temperatures, bitter winds and lashings of snow, hail and rain. While obviously unpleasant to deal with for a short duration, if you’re working in those conditions on a construction site for multiple hours a day, your health can be put at risk if you don’t take proper precautions.
Encouraging staff to layer up with at least one insulating base layer and a waterproof, and to bring a change of clothing with them, creates a first line of defence against plummeting internal temperatures - as they will have the necessary kit to help keep their body at a comfortable level of warmth. Of particular importance are your body’s extremities - feet, hands and head - which can get cold quickly if not covered - and, therefore, site-suitable hats, gloves and thick socks should be worn by everyone in conjunction with using the correct and up to date PPE equipment.
On a related note, steel-capped boots can become freezing when winter arrives, so, to avoid blue toes, suggest that staff use composite-capped boots instead, or boots made specifically for working in wintery conditions –in either case appropriately safety approved!
Protect belongings and equipment from the elements
Whether it’s personal belongings or expensive site equipment, they are all at danger of erosion and damage if they’re exposed to harsh weather. Sub-zero temperatures can carry the potential for electronic components to freeze over, so keeping equipment containing these in storage can make sure they don’t deteriorate throughout the cold season. Ideally, you will want to keep them in an indoor space, if possible - however, if outside is the only viable option, it’s worth investing in some weatherproof storage lockers to keep at least the essentials dry.
Enforce a low speed limit
While, 10, 15 and 20-mile speed limits are commonplace on construction sites, you might consider bringing this down to 5 if you’re dealing with freezing temperatures - as obviously this makes temporary roads an understandably dangerous place. Be sure to stock up on grit, too, so that site traffic doesn’t risk skidding on ice. Lay this out first thing in the morning and last thing before the site shuts, so that it has time to melt existing snow and prevent a build-up overnight.
Provide warm break areas
Anyone who’s been caught out in a cold snap will remember the satisfying feeling of warming up in a toasty space with a hot brew - and for construction workers, this is multiplied by 10 if they have been outside for hours. A break area that’s both heated and provides facilities for hot drinks and food is essential for sites open over the winter, ensuring workers can cope both physically and mentally with the cold. Of course, there’s a legal minimum when it comes to the number of breaks workers are entitled to, but you might consider going above this if the weather is particularly inhospitable.
These break areas also provide a useful place to put up posters and leaflets that educate the workforce on the symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia, both of which call for immediate medical attention if they appear. With these, you’ll be encouraging workers to look after their own safety, which is, naturally, an important aspect of any construction site.
Perform thorough, routine checks
Naturally, performing maintenance checks are necessary no matter the conditions outside - but they are non-negotiable during winter. The health and safety risks associated with outdoor construction are heightened over this period, so taking steps to ensure work platforms, surfaces, roads and machinery are suitable for use is paramount. It’s also important that your checks go beyond the site itself, looking at weather forecasts and making the call if you decide that conditions are going to be too hostile to work in.
With the onset of winter comes a medley of different challenges on construction sites - but with our advice, you will have taken the first steps to protecting your equipment and, more importantly, your people.
Simon Mitchell has run successful companies in Europe and the US that are focused on delivering exceptional value to clients – while Action Storage offers a diverse range of storage products, along with the technical expertise to help clients’ businesses operate more efficiently. In Simon’s words, that’s a rewarding place to be.