When cold temperatures and winter weather set in, it’s time to take additional precautions when managing your outdoor work team. Just as in warm weather, you and your crew should prepare appropriately to ensure climate control and safety at all times. But with the effects of extreme cold, snow or ice, new concerns arise that can become dangerous obstacles to performance, cost and safety in the workplace.
Help your projects and team stay on track by implementing safety guidelines that everyone can easily follow when working in the cold outdoors. It will help to remember these six safety tips:
Pre-planning is a crucial piece of protecting your workers in colder environments. Monitor the weather and pending climate changes for the coming week and plot the warmest times of day for optimum work. Temperatures typically peak from noon through the afternoon hours, meaning this is the best time for your workers to get out in the field. Also, always be cognizant of pending storms or wind changes that may influence work conditions.
Working in cold weather requires your team to be well-rested and energized for the job ahead — even more so than usual. A tired body has a more difficult time keeping itself warm. To maintain a consistent internal temperature, the body needs enough energy to stay in motion and keep muscles warm. So allow plenty of breaks and check in often with your workers.
Clothing and gear play a critical role in workers’ ability to perform safely and successfully in cold temperatures. Layering clothing can be one of the most effective tools. As temperatures change throughout the day or from one workplace to another, layers let workers add or remove clothing as needed. Cold temperatures can also be compounded by wind and wetness. So wearing layers that protect from these conditions — e.g., waterproof fabrics, windbreakers and extra insulation on the head, feet and fingers — gives your team the coverage flexibility needed to perform best.
In harsh, cold conditions, it’s important for workers to perform duties in pairs, if not groups. Maintaining a buddy system will help workers recognize any signs of cold-induced injury or illness that may be showing up in a co-worker. Make sure your team is aware of the signs of such illnesses and injuries so they can address them as needed. For this reason, it’s also important to have adequate personnel availability in case of emergency.
Taking more breaks in cold conditions doesn’t mean less work gets done. Instead it means workers will be performing at their peak and won’t be pushed beyond their limits in extreme temperatures. Frequent breaks in dry, warm areas allow the body to warm up so everyone is able to maintain their work schedule more easily, without the danger of constant cold, wind or wetness.
In cold conditions, bodies require specific food and drink to perform best. Drinking warm, sweet beverages while avoiding alcohol and caffeine will assist your team in their abilities to sustain performance throughout their shift. Additionally, the best foods are those that are warm and high in calories. Make sure your workers have a proper break and break area to obtain such food and drink.