Massachusetts construction workers are used to working in all sorts of weather conditions. But the recent blast of winter weather means that construction workers will face some dangerous conditions when going back to work. Most individuals are aware of the dangers present during periods of extreme heat, thunderstorms, and other extreme weather events. But periods of snowfall and below-average cold can present unique dangers to construction workers as well. These include:
- Dangers from hypothermia and frostbite. Especially for workers who must work outdoors, cold weather combined with winds can easily cause frostbite to exposed skin and hypothermia. In serious cases, either of these conditions can result in the loss of limbs and (in some extreme cases) death. But even mild cases of frostbite or hypothermia can cause a worker’s hands to become unsteady and shaky. This, in turn, can increase the likelihood of injuries from hand tools.
- Dangers from ice. Moisture and accumulated snow on walkways, stairwells, and other surfaces can easily turn into ice, especially if these surfaces are exposed to the elements. This creates slip and fall hazards, unsafe stairwell conditions, and can result in cuts and lacerations, bruises, and other serious injuries to workers.
- Dangers from exhaustion and fatigue. Most individuals associate exhaustion with extreme heat, but exhaustion and fatigue can occur during extreme cold as well. This is because more energy is needed to keep the body warm. When a person becomes fatigued they may not be able to concentrate as well or have as much dexterity, which increases the chances of injury.
- Dangers involving heavy equipment. Of course, snowy and icy conditions can make it dangerous for heavy equipment to be moved or operated. For instance, icy access roads to a construction site may mean that heavy equipment such as a dump truck cannot stop or maneuver effectively to avoid striking a worker.
Working Safely in Winter Conditions
Employers should take the opportunity to remind their employees of safe working practices in winter conditions, such as:
- Teaching workers about cold-weather injuries such as hypothermia and frostbite, including how to prevent, recognize, and respond to these conditions;
- Ensuring workers report for work in proper clothing, including warm layers that can be removed or added as conditions dictate. Proper clothing should also include mittens and/or gloves;
- Encouraging workers to take frequent short breaks in a warm and dry area to allow their bodies an opportunity to remain warm;
- Instructing workers to drink warm beverages that do not have caffeine and consume warm, high-calorie foods; and
- Suggesting workers use a “buddy system” so that each worker has another worker watching for signs of cold weather injuries.
The harsh of winter has proven to be just as dangerous as the summer heat. We hope you take the opportunity to share some of what you’ve read today with those who face similar conditions as these to prevent any extremely harmful accidents from happening.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a workplace accident this winter, speak with us about your situation. Depending on your specific situation, there may be third parties who are responsible for your injuries as well (such as a negligent driver from another company) and from whom compensation can be obtained.
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