Construction site security is critical year-round, but cold weather days add hazards and challenges that require countermeasures. In the wintertime, the days grow shorter and the air gets colder as night falls.
Even if your site never gets ice or snow, construction workers contend with blustery, cold, and rainy days. These increase the likelihood employees could slip and fall. Their hands turn cold and stiff, which makes it harder to operate equipment and do manual labor.
The Need for Greater Construction Site Security in the Winter
Construction has the highest number and rate of fatal work injuries out of all industry sectors according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Moreover, the Center for Construction Research and Training indicates that exposure is the cause of almost 15 percent of deaths in construction. In this instance. exposure refers to extreme temperatures, air pressure changes, and exposure to substances or electric current.
Preparing your construction site and employees for cold days will reduce risk and minimize injuries. Here are eight ways to enhance construction site security in the winter months to improve safety.
1. Create a Winter Plan
Every year, you’ll have to contend with winter on your construction site. Save yourself time by creating a plan with processes and procedures to secure the site every year. It’s like a checklist to ensure you’ve done everything to prepare the construction site for wintertime. You can always add to the plan as you find new and better ways of doing things.
The plan contains winterization checklists, winter weather procedures, and employee training. Procedures should list every possible scenario that can happen during winter and how to respond to each. If the temperatures fall below freezing, what do the workers need to wear? What steps do they need to take to stay warm and safe?
Add checks and inspections to the plan. List what to inspect and what to verify. Then, when it comes time to conduct checks and inspections, you’ll know what to do without missing a beat.
Some things need to happen before chilly weather arrives. So, it’ would help to have a checklist in order by timeline. For example, once cold hits and freezes the ground, it makes it harder to do any kind of maintenance. This includes the parking lot and roadways where heavy equipment travels. If there are any uneven surfaces or potholes, you’ll want them repaired before the ground freezes.
2. Conduct Checks and Inspections
Use the checklist in the winter plan to confirm you’ve inspected everything on the worksite before construction begins. The purpose is to catch and correct any safety hazards. It’s also the time to verify all equipment is present and in the right location.
As you inspect the site, watch for downed trees and power lines. Clear snow and ice from all work areas including the scaffolding, ladders, steps, windows, and walkways. Even if ice or snow is not present, the site may have water puddles dispersed around the site.
It’s easy to forget that ice forms on the roof, trees, and other structures. Remove any icicles and ice patches. For anything you can’t clear, rope off the area or put up a clearly marked sign with instructions. Maintain a good stock of salt and sand to use as needed.
Check to see if the heating works in the cabs and that the heavy equipment has emergency kits. An emergency kit contains a shovel, ice scraper, non-perishable snacks, water emergency flares, and backup cell phone batteries. Do the engine oil and hydraulic fluids in the heavy equipment need changing over to one rated for cold weather? Tools can operate differently in colder temps and some may need antifreeze oil.
Can your ditching systems handle the amount of water from the melted snow and ice? That’s why you’ll want to review pre-spring activities to prepare for the spring thaw. It’ll prepare your site for water run-offs.
3. Monitor the Weather
Occasionally, it can be too dangerous to work in certain winter weather conditions. Stay on top of weather reports as much as possible as weather can turn on a dime. You don’t want your workers to make the dangerous commute to the site only to have to go back home.
Create a process on how workers can find out if the site is closed and to stay home where they are safe. One possibility is to check the company’s webpage for updates. You will also want to provide a second way to find out whether work is on or off for the day. What if the power is out and the worker cannot check the website? Or the website itself is down.
4. Provide a Warm Break Area
Workers may not be in a location where they can go inside and warm up. When this is the case, bring in a heated trailer or tent that’s big enough to support rotating workers. They need frequent breaks to minimize their exposure to cold temps.
Add snacks and drinks in the break area to help them refuel while they warm up. While coffee is warm, some say not to serve it because of the caffeine. It can increase the heart rate, which can trick people into thinking they feel warmer than they are. This makes it harder to self-regulate their temperatures.
5. Clear the Ice and Snow
At almost 40 percent, the highest number of deaths in constructions is the result of falls according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Thus, it’s critical to remove the ice and snow as much as possible, and not just from the ground but from other surfaces like the stairs, scaffolding, ladders, and roof. Put down salt and sand wherever needed.
6. Require Appropriate PPE for Cold Weather
Personal protective equipment can make a difference in safety. It’s one of the best investments for construction companies to make in its employees. High-quality PPE costs more. However, one of the things companies with the lowest rate of safety incidences have in common is their PPE investment and training employees on how to use the PPE.
Winter weather affects mobility, hearing, and vision. Eyewear fogs or the glare from the snow blinds. Covering the ears to keep them warm can reduce hearing. Cold air affects dexterity and traction on the ground. Bulky winter clothes also limit mobility. Wet clothes increase the employee’s risk for injury and hypothermia. The ideal winter gear is waterproof, breathable, and warm without the bulk.
Besides, having the right gear for the weather leads to fewer construction site injuries. And that, in turn, saves money.
7. Train Employees
Training employees on how to correctly use equipment, tools, and PPE is a year-round must-do. And this is especially true in the winter when workers change what they wear and how they use tools. For one, they may need to warm up their equipment or tools before use. While this takes time, it minimizes damage and extends the life of the equipment.
This is also a good opportunity to educate them on the signs of hypothermia and illness. The earlier they catch it, the shorter the illness. Companies with fewest work injuries invest in regular training.
8. Add Video Surveillance
Video surveillance has advanced to the point that it can make out identifying information regardless if its daylight or dark outside. In fact, construction sites make good candidates for mobile video surveillance.
You can deploy it quickly and when you work with the right vendor, they will place the camera in strategic locations for the greatest amount of coverage and secure them to prevent inclement weather from knocking them around.
Ask about a modular solution. It does not have challenges with low-lighting and unreliable power. A modular video surveillance system is self-contained and can include a battery backup. You can scale the system up or down as your site needs change. Ask the vendor if the solution requires a wireless or hardwired internet connection.
Video surveillance with live monitoring can help deter crime. Advanced video analytics watch for certain scenarios and alert the trained operator when something pops up. The operator checks the activity and responds appropriately. The operator may warn the trespasser using the audio speaker, call the police, or contact management.
What about using security guards instead? Strategically placed cameras see far more than security guards. Guards can only see their area and cannot enter some areas on a construction site due to safety and liability concerns. Cameras can see the entire site without concern about hazards. While the monitoring operators may not be on-site, they can activate speaker warnings and call police as soon as they spot something.
Just like doing checks before winter and at the end of winter, video surveillance needs regular system health checks. Technology breaks and stops working. The health checks spot issues before they become a problem. You don’t want to run into an incident only to find out the cameras went down when it happened.
Construction site managers have a responsibility to keep the construction site safe for workers, and contractors. Out of all industries, the construction industry has one of the highest risks for injuries and fatalities. Taking steps to prepare for the challenges of winter helps reduce risk. Doing these eight things can go a long way to maximize security.
To recap, the eight ways to boost construction site security this winter are:
- Create a plan
- Conduct checks and inspections
- Monitor the weather
- Provide a warm break area
- Clear the ice and snow
- Require appropriate PPE for cold weather
- Train employees
- Add video surveillance
When you work with Stealth, you can get a customized construction site solution that fits your requirements and budget. To learn more about how this works, pick up this free construction site security guide. You can also contact us.