Short, dark days, bitter chills, lashing rain and hazardous ice… winter can be a brutal time for most of us, but for those working in the construction industry, this most severe of seasons presents its own unique challenges.
From injuries and illness to loss of income and whole sites being shut down due to poor weather conditions, there’s so much to contend with over the next few months that meeting client deadlines and finishing in time for the holidays can seem like an impossible struggle.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Below, we offer our top safety tips to help tradesmen like you stay safe and be productive over the winter months.
Make the most of daylight – change your schedule
How many times over the last few weeks have you heard friends and loved ones complain about going to work in the dark and coming home in –sigh– even more darkness? Sure, the shorter days and reduced daylight are an unfortunate inconvenience for those commuting to an office job every day, but for those of you working out on sight, they could pose a serious problem.
Reduced visibility means an increased risk of trips, injuries, or other accidents, all of which can not only bring your project grinding to a halt but -more importantly- have serious consequences for your own health and safety.
To help avoid such risks, it pays to consider adjusting your schedule to the most of the minimal daylight hours. If your job involves working both indoors and outdoors, you’ll benefit from scheduling the majority of your outdoor work before the harshest of the winter weather strikes.
On those days were work in both locations is required, indoor work can be carried out at the earliest and latest parts of the shifts, saving outdoor work for the middle of the day when you’ll have maximum daylight.
Wrap up to prevent hypothermia & frostbite
Always thought conditions like frostbite were the exclusive reserve of those travelling to the North Pole on some exciting arctic adventure?
The truth is that it’s a real possibility for those working outdoors in the bitterly cold weather for prolonged periods. But, the good news is that there’s plenty of steps you can take to keep Jack Frost away this winter.
In most cases, tradesmen working outdoors for long periods, especially at significant heights (such as scaffolders or roofing contractors) are more susceptible to frostbite. So, if this applies to you, be sure to adjust your schedule to include periods where you can be indoors and warm up before heading back out there.
Whilst you’re inside, however, try an alternative to coffee or similar drinks. Caffeine (and alcohol) levels can contribute to the onset of frostbite, as can damp or wet clothing.
The best solution then, is to lay off those post-work pints in the winter months, drop to decaf, and pack a spare change of clothes in case you end up wet. And speaking of clothing, the most important piece of advice we can give you is probably the same advice your mum gave you when you were young:
“Don’t go outside without wrapping up warm!”
This is as important for preventing frostbite as it is for hyperthermia and other nasty, winter-related conditions, so remember those extra layers. That includes waterproofs, and investing in a decent hat and pair of gloves.
Take care of yourself to avoid winter bugs
It doesn’t take a medical expert to work out that more of us get sick during the winter than at any other time of year.
For some, it might be a simple case of a common cold that you can easily work through with a packet of Kleenex and some Lemsip. For others, however, it might be the dreaded winter flu, potent enough to render you bed bound for days at a time.
You don’t need anyone to tell you what a detrimental impact that could have on your work, so be sure to take the best possible care of yourself over the coming weeks. Rest to avoid burnout, stick to a healthy diet and keep plenty of vitamin C in your system to ensure you’re fit, healthy and ready to go, no matter what the weather may throw at you.
Take appropriate action to avoid accidents & injuries
Did you know that slips, trips, and falls account for the majority of injuries on constructions ides? And did you know that handling and lifting accidents aren’t far behind when it comes to the number of tradesmen who wind up with a chauffeur-driven trip to A&E?
It’s true, it’s serious, but with the right techniques and equipment, it’s also avoidable.
First, let’s talk footwear.No, we’re not talking designer labels and high street fashions – we’re talking solid, sturdy boots with a good tread and ladder-safe heels. If your boots have seen better days, now might be the perfect time for a visit to your nearest cobblers, or you know, asking Santa for a brand new pair this Christmas.
With your feet appropriately attired, be extra vigilant about where you’re putting them. Move at a slower pace than usual and be mindful of every step. Remember, we’re talking about your livelihood here. Can you really afford the time off work as a result of injury caused by rushing through things on a wet and windy winter’s day?
We didn’t think so, which is why it’s so important to be careful when moving around on site, and why it’s just as vital that you remember proper handling and lifting techniques when the job calls for them. The NHS has a comprehensive list of handling and lifting techniques that can play a big part in avoiding injuries this winter, so be sure to familiarise yourself with them before your next job.
When all else fails – stop work
There are no medals for bravado in the construction industry, nor is it worth pushing on with the job if conditions are making it simply too dangerous to continue.
When the weather takes a turn for the worse, remember to regularly assess whether it’s still safe to continue and err on the side of caution rather than bravery. The work will still be there when the storm calms, and if you’re worried about missing an important deadline, just imagine how long that job will be delayed if you’re injured (or worse) as a result of working in unsafe conditions.