The dangers of cold-weather jobsites extend far beyond slips on the ice and frostbitten fingertips. Some of the most devastating results aren’t from what crews don’t do to stay safe (such as dress warmly enough), but from what they do do (such as use portable heaters).
In Salem, N.H., where the thermostat often hovers below freezing in wintertime, Blackdog Design/Build/Remodel uses the following strategies to keep its crews, trades, and clients safe in and around jobsites.
Toward the end of fall, hold a “Toolbox Talk” about how to dress for winter work and how to recognize and address frostbite. “We highlight things like polypro underwear and the best gloves,” says Dave Bryan, president. He also recommends wearing insulated steel-toe boots, dressing in layers, and having a change of clothes in the truck.
Review heater safety. “One of the more dangerous issues is temporary heat,” Bryan says. Blackdog rules: Use a heat source that will not allow carbon monoxide to build up. Never leave an open flame unattended. Store combustible material in proper containers and away from space heaters.
Be vigilant about jobsite cleanliness, especially in terms of shoveling snow and salting ice to keep work areas clear and prevent slips and falls.
Additional Foul-Weather Safety Tips
Other remodelers have their own approaches. “We have been working so long in the cold weather that we mostly use common sense,” says Bob Bell of Bell’s Remodeling, in Duluth, Minn. He suggests the following:
Dress in layers. “It is much better to take off layers than wish you had more.”
“If ladders or planks are left up overnight, cover the planks and be careful on the ladders.”
If doing roof work, “cover the roof at night so the frost is on the tarp, not on the roof.”
Be on constant alert for ice patches and slippery spots.
Keep tools in warm areas, to the extent possible, to keep them working properly.
“When it’s too cool — like minus 5 degrees — stay home!”
Rainy Day Strategies
The mercury doesn’t drop nearly as far in Aptos, Calif., home to Michael Mills Construction. “Snow is a rarity, even on the local mountains,” owner Michael Mills says. “However, we get lots of rain — that’s how we grow those big redwood trees.”
For Mills, then, “It’s tires, windshield wiper blades, good brakes, and careful driving that get the most emphasis” in weather-related safety training. “We do very little roof work, but if we must go on a roof, it’s with extra care and personal fall equipment,” he says. Mills’ crews also stay off wood shingles, “they get very slippery and are easy to damage.”
“As to most other hazards,” Mills adds, “we avoid using power tools in wet weather, encourage appropriate clothing, and we’re not afraid to take a ‘rain day’ off the job.”
For more safety tips, visit ToolBase Services.