Keeping Your Road Crew Safe and Warm In Winter

Keeping road crew safe winter

A lot of roadwork safety tips involve staying hydrated and keeping cool in hot weather. In truth, summer isn't the only season that workers need to worry about — winter can be just as bad. High winds, cold weather, and snow all pose unique challenges when it comes to staying safe, warm, dry, and healthy. Cold weather can be tough on machinery, too, which can make jobs more difficult. Here are nine tips for keeping your road crew safe during winter:

1. Watch the weather.

Keeping an eye on the weather report won't just let you know how to prepare for the workday, it also lets you know when you might want to cut the workday short. If a storm's coming, the best policy might be to pack up early. Keeping tabs on changing weather conditions ensures that you and your crew won't get caught by surprise.

2. Set up a place where workers can get warm.

When it comes to being stuck outside in winter weather, outdoor heaters can be a lifesaver. Designate a break area with some form of shelter, heat, and hot beverages, so workers can take a minute to warm up again after working in the cold. This won't just help morale; it can also prevent issues like frostbite and hypothermia. Shivering also uses up a lot of energy, and cold workers can become fatigued more easily.

3. Pay closer attention to motorists.

You probably already know how important it is to do things like visually separate work areas from driving areas and direct the flow of traffic, but this becomes even more crucial when you add issues like high winds, ice, or snow to the mix. Winter weather creates lower visibility, and wind and ice make it harder to keep vehicles under control. Make sure you account for this as much as possible when you're setting up temporary traffic patterns and establishing work zones.

4. Protect eyes from UV.

It's not summer, so you don't really need sunglasses, right? Unfortunately, that's incorrect. Wet pavement and snow create reflective surfaces that can bounce ultraviolet light right into workers' eyes. If you've ever been skiing, you might have experience with "snow blindness." Not only does working during winter carry a risk of photokeratitis, but the additional glare can also make it harder to see and work safely.

5. Layer clothing — but do it right.

Working outdoors in the cold can be tricky, especially when you need to wear personal protective equipment. You might pile on the layers in the early morning, when you're cold, only to warm up and strip down later in the day. If you get cold again, you might put another layer or two back on. Remember, PPE always needs to be on the outside so it can do its job properly. Workers should wear layers that they can easily put on or take off during the day, but they need to make sure that their PPE is always on the outside and that it fits properly over their layers without restricting the workers' movement.

6. Give the worksite a daily once-over.

Part of the problem with winter weather is that conditions can change very quickly. In other words, you might pack up for the day, go home, and come back just to find that you've got snow drifts, downed power lines, fallen tree limbs, and other problems in places you didn't before. Go over the whole worksite early in the morning so you can deal with any hazards that may have cropped up overnight.

7. Have road salt and sand handy.

Make sure you're prepared to deal with ice. Have a stash of road salt and sand handy to keep roadways clear, free stuck equipment, and provide more traction on ice or snow. Don't skimp on it, either — make sure you have more than you think you'll need. It's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

8. Have emergency shelters and kits ready.

If the weather suddenly turns on you, you might not be able to get out of the worksite safely for a while. It's a good idea to equip your emergency kits with items like chemical hand warmers, non-perishable food, bottled water, candles, shelters, and space blankets. That ensures that you'll be able to keep everyone safe and warm until things clear up.

9. Warm your equipment up before you start.

Metal is tough, but not as tough as the cold. While metal is able to absorb some shock in warm weather, the cold can make it very brittle. This means that pieces may chip, crack, or shear off more easily, creating dangerous situations for workers and delays while you source replacement equipment. Very cold equipment can also be dangerous to operate barehanded since it can pull heat from the skin and cause frostbite. Give all of your equipment a little bit of time to warm up before using it.

Summer comes with the risk of dehydration and heat stroke, but winter brings frostbite and hypothermia. Before setting up your job sites this winter, go over this list of safety tips to make sure that you're prepared for whatever the ice and snow throw at you.

POSTED: November 23, 2022

TAGS: Safety