Construction jobs always have some amount of risk involved. During winter, however, additional dangers make themselves known and must be considered. There are a host of dangers associated with the cold weather itself, enough that OSHA has devoted an entire page to the risks and impact of cold stress. As ice and snow build up on outdoor job sites, slips and falls also become much harder to avoid.
An Ounce of Prevention
In October, Construction Dive ran a story describing the ways impending winter weather was affecting construction companies. The companies which received spotlight coverage in the article, both out of Massachusetts, expressed concern for worker safety and the need for preparation. Windover Construction explained how they provide clothing needs, like winter hats and work gloves, as well as an enclosed heated space for workers to get out of the cold weather. Meanwhile, Shawmut Design and Construction relayed that they also provide warm clothing and run weekly safety meetings to discuss winter hazards. They also run emergency meetings when especially bad weather demands it. Both companies noted that they had already purchased the cold weather supplies they would need for the season.
This is important for a number of reasons. Keeping employees safe is a primary issue, of course, but for construction teams it can go beyond that. Failing to prepare for every aspect of winter increases their own risks. Workplace injuries can pull money from the company in the form of workers' compensation and fines, as well as repair or replacement costs for any tools or materials that may have been affected. Failing to account for reduced workplace efficiency in winter, and lack of adequate weatherization methods in place, can slow a job down beyond the original terms of the contract. It is, overall, in the best interest of both employers and workers to carefully prepare for winter, and employers that do not do so are at best short-sighted and at worst negligent.
EHS Today noted that, in 2015, slips and falls accounted for 800 fatalities and the risk of suffering a slip, trip, or fall accident generally increases in winter conditions. They included tips for employers, such as ensuring that parking and break areas are maintained along with major walkways. Like OSHA, they also included information on identifying and preventing hypothermia and frostbite. The Construction Dive article also noted a number of tools construction companies had to purchase or prepare to use in advance, such as tarps, heaters, fuel for those heaters and concrete blankets. All of this adds up to a great deal of planning and expenses for construction companies, but they are necessary steps to keep workers safe during winter months.
Employees have responsibilities as well. It is vital that workers watch out for dangerous situations and alert their supervisors of any threats so they can work to avoid or correct them. Workers should always pay attention and carefully apply any information given during safety meetings. When a construction accident happens within the bounds of the company's responsibility, you need lawyers who care about you and will get results. Contact Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano LLP today to tell us your story and find out what we can do to help.