Construction Worker Safety Risks During Winter MonthsDecember 6, 2018
With the shorter days, darker evenings, and colder weather of winter come additional construction worker safety risks.
Differing State Statistics
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2014, there were 42,480 workplace injuries involving ice, sleet, or snow that demanded at least one day off. Of these injuries, and illnesses, 34,860 (82 percent) were the result of falls on the same level – not from heights. The states with the highest number of injuries or illnesses from same level falls include New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Alaska, Montana, Maine, and Wyoming saw a minimum of two-and-a-half times greater incident rates than the national average.
Just as hypothermia and frostbite can both be the result of prolonged exposure to the cold, there are many risks for other injuries. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), some of the actions that contribute to additional risks for construction workers include:
- Clearing snow from roofs. Snow often demands removal from rooftops in order to prevent it from causing overload and collapse, or to obtain access to the roof itself for any necessary repairs. When workers are removing snow, they are often doing so under high winds, icy surfaces, and cold temperatures. According to OSHA investigations, falls are the cause of most worker fatalities and injuries during snow removal. Other risks include falling off the roof’s edges, from ladders and lifts, or even through skylights and overall roof collapse.
- Removing downed trees. Often winter weather and winds can cause trees to fall down. When this happens it is often extremely urgent to remove these trees, as they often block roadways and can damage power lines. Hazards of this removal include electrocution through direct or indirect contact with downed power lines, falling from heights (trees or equipment), or injuries from chain saws and chippers.
- Repairing downed or damaged power lines. A major hazard of repairing power lines is snow; the moisture of it can decrease the insulation of protective equipment, thereby causing electrocution. Other hazards include electrocution by downed lines, fires from energized lines, and becoming struck or crushed by falling tree limbs or collapsing equipment.
- Shoveling snow. Though it sounds innocent enough, the act of shoveling snow can prove extremely strenuous on the body. It can also cause back injuries, dehydration, exhaustion, or even heart attacks.
- Using snow blowers. Snow blowers must be grounded in order to prevent electrocution. They may also cause lacerations and even amputations when workers attempt to remove a jam in the equipment, while the equipment is still turned on. Adding fuel while a snow blower is on can be dangerous, as the engine is hot.
- Working alongside of active, snow and/or ice covered roads. Often repairs are necessary on highly traveled roads. However, during winter months snow and ice can cause drivers to skid into workers and cause fatalities.
In order to help employees avoid these injuries, it is imperative that an employer not only provide the current equipment and safety equipment, but also that it put in place policies and guidelines to educate employees and prevent certain actions from occurring.
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