Winter brings a new set of safety challenges to construction. Ice, snow, wind, freezing temperatures and poor visibility — all add risk. If you experience winter in your location, think about prepping these three aspects of your business: your team, your equipment and your site.
Train the team
OSHA recommends that all vehicle and equipment operators who work in snowy or icy conditions receive training on safe winter operating procedures. When possible, let them practice navigating slippery roads and surfaces in empty parking lots or other safe areas.
Make sure your training also includes information about hypothermia. Key points to emphasize:
• Hypothermia strikes when the core body temperature drops below 95 degrees F. It can happen even when air temperatures are above freezing.
• Always check the weather before a shift and prepare for the worst. Wear fast-drying clothing and bring extra layers for warmth and rain protection.
• Fuel the body furnace. Keep extra snacks on hand and eat often if temperatures drop.
• Hypothermia can be difficult to recognize. Early warning signs include shivering, blotchy skin, blue fingers and toes and numbness or tingling. While enclosed cabs can provide protection from the elements, frequent trips in and out can make it difficult to maintain body temperature.
• The early stages of hypothermia can be mitigated by getting the person warm and dry as quickly as possible. If symptoms persist, call an ambulance or get them to the nearest medical facility.
Evaluate the equipment
To prepare machines for winter, make sure all preventive maintenance is up-to-date. Take care of minor repairs and install the correct fluids and filters in all components. Keep batteries fully charged and tires properly inflated. Before startup, remove snow and debris from tires or undercarriage. Inspect for leaks and loose connections. Check all dipsticks to confirm fluid levels and viscosity. Don’t start an engine unless the oil drips off the stick. In extremely cold temperatures, consider using a block heater or room-temperature starting fluid to power up the engine. Let the machine reach operating temperature before work begins. And be sure to fill the fuel tank at the end of every shift.
Scout the site
The work environment also needs special attention during the winter months. Keep driving and pedestrian routes free of ice and snow. Be aware that visibility is often reduced on wintry days and snow can hide hazards. Add extra lighting, mark active work zones with highly visible signs and use cones or barricades to delineate risky areas. If machines are not being used, get them off the site and into storage where they’ll be out of the way and protected from the elements.
Ready, set, snow
Cold weather can take a toll on your business, but the work goes on. Be ready to run safely and efficiently all winter long by taking some simple steps now to prepare your people, equipment and site. Get tips about winter fleet maintenance at Catallday.