Two Ways to Protect Construction Workers During the Winter

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Performing construction work during the winter can be challenging. Here are two steps that building site managers should take to ensure the safety of their construction workers during this time of the year.

Allow the soil to dry out before performing construction excavation work

During the winter months, the soil on a building site often ends being saturated as a result of exposure to snow or rainwater. If this happens on a site where excavation work needs to be carried out, the site manager should postpone the excavation until after the soil has dried out. Attempting to make a trench when the soil is soaking wet could put those involved in this process at risk of serious injury.

For example, when a worker is using an excavator to remove soil from a half-dug trench, they usually need to perch the machine as close to the edge of the trench as possible so that the bucket can access and pick up the soil at the base of the trench. If the soil is saturated on the side of the trench where the machine is positioned, it will be far less stable than it would be if it were dry. As such, the weight of the excavator on top of it could cause it to sink downwards, which could then cause the excavator to tip sideways.

This, in turn, could lead to two types of accidents. Firstly, any soil in the bucket of the excavator could fall out and crush workers standing beside the trench. Secondly, if the excavator tips over quite suddenly and forcefully, the operator could fall out of the cab and land on the ground by the trench or in the trench itself. This fall could result in them being physically injured.

As such, it is best for the site manager to simply wait until the rain or snow subsides and the soil dries out before they allow their workers to proceed with the construction excavation.

Discourage workers from wearing garments that might affect their ability to identify hazards

When working outdoors during the winter months, most labourers will wear a variety of items to keep themselves warm. However, whilst this is important, it is vital for the person managing the site to discourage workers from wearing items that could impede their ability to spot hazards. For example, labourers should not wear thick hats that cover their ears but should instead wear ones that cover their heads but leave their ears exposed.

If a worker's ears are covered by a thick hat, this material may make it harder for that individual to hear the warning signals from nearby machinery or the voices of their co-workers who are shouting at them to move out of the way of a falling piece of equipment that is about to land on their head. This could then increase their risk of being run over or struck by a large piece of equipment.

As such, it is important for those tasked with managing building sites to strike a balance between helping the workers to stay warm and making sure that their efforts to avoid the cold do not put them in danger.