Ensuring Construction Worker Safety in Extreme Cold
In light of last week’s polar vortex in the US, worker safety concerns have come to the forefront. In the construction industry, where deadlines are strict and the demand is high, extreme weather conditions may not phase some project managers.
While working in the -70ºF temperatures that swept parts of the Midwest last week is out of the question, that doesn’t stop project managers from demanding attendance in more tolerable, albeit still sub-zero, temperatures.
So, when should workers report to the jobsite during frigid winters? And what measures should they take to prevent frostbite or hypothermia?
Putting Your Foot Down
During last week’s record-breaking polar vortex, government agencies were advising people to not stay outside for longer than two minutes. If you are scheduled to report to an outdoor construction project during a government advisory, you are entitled to exercise your rights.
Most project managers won’t want to risk an OSHA investigation or workers’ comp case for a few hours’ worth of progress. OSHA standards generally advise that when temperatures hit -30º to -34ºF or below with more than 10-20 mph winds, nonemergency construction work should cease. A table with these temperature and windchill standards can be viewed on their website.
Construction workers should keep this table handy, particularly during rough weather events like blizzards and polar vortexes.
Taking Necessary Precautions
Any temperatures below zero, particularly where a windchill is involved, should be taken seriously. If required to work, constructions workers must take the following precautions—and managers should enforce them:
Knowing the Risks
There are three kinds of cold stress that can occur. Having the proper gear, taking frequent breaks, and avoiding work during peak temperature drops can prevent against these. Nonetheless, it’s still important to know the signs:
Awareness and preparedness are half the work of enduring construction work in cold temperatures. Nonetheless, know when it’s okay to tell your employer “No.” If you are being forced to work in significantly freezing temperatures, approach your employer with the necessary OSHA resources.
Chances are, if temperatures are reaching record lows, construction work should come to a screeching halt.
Ellie Batchiyska is a writer for Advance Online, the first web-based training provider to be accepted by the OSHA Outreach Program for DOL OSHA completion cards.
Back To News