Staying Warm When Working Outdoors

Working in construction sometimes means working in some harsh weather conditions. Dangerous lightning that has the crew running for the work truck. Heavy rains that come up suddenly and you’re left scrambling to secure a job site. High levels of heat that can kill you faster than you think. Severe cold that will get your teeth chattering and turn you into a popsicle.

Personally, I don’t like the cold. It’s one of the reasons I moved to Vegas. However, there are plenty of my brothers and sisters in hard hats who live in places that get dangerously cold, so today I am writing a post all for you. Working in cold weather causes “cold stress,” which OSHA considers to be a workplace hazard, although your definition of cold may differ from that of your employer. That’s something to sort out before the weather gets cold, though, so that preparations can be made beforehand. Luckily, there are many things that you can do to minimize cold stress so that you and your crew can safely work outdoors in winter.

The first thing is to make sure everyone has access to appropriate clothing. Layers work well. Basic cotton will get wet with sweat and then is of little to no use. Wool, silk, and man-made fabrics maintain warmth even if there is precipitation or sweating. Hats or masks, insulated gloves, and insulated boots will all help the crew stay warmer longer. Waterproof or water resistant would work even better, and used in conjunction with hand or foot warmers can be a lifesaver. Keep extra layers on hand in case someone needs to change.

People will need hot beverages; sweetened is better to help keep your people properly hydrated, so do regular coffee and hot tea runs. Send different people each time so that everybody has a chance to sit in a warm vehicle and get a little time indoors. I personally would get a few portable heaters—electric if you have access to power, a good portable propane heater if you don’t. I like the propane heaters because you can hook them up to decent sized tanks that will last you a while. It is a quick and easy change out, too. A quality space heater can warm a nice sized area, so depending on the scale of your job, you might be able to keep the work area warm enough. If not, have the crews rotate in and out, make sure everybody gets warm. Know the signs of frostbite, hypothermia, and trench foot. Keep tabs on each other and get help for anybody who might need it; cold weather does not play around, and conditions will deteriorate fast.

Being prepared and taking the proper steps to ensure worker safety in cold weather is incredibly important. Hope these tips help.