Winter months lead to frigid temperatures, fewer hours of daylight, and frequent snow and freezing rains. Winter weather can create treacherous work conditions for construction workers who are exposed to the elements. These adverse conditions can lead to serious injury accidents or death. It is an undeniable fact that the dangers of winter weather contribute to the already high risk of injury on construction worksites.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), approximately one out of every five deaths recorded in the private industry involved construction workers in 2016. Construction workers face daily risks on construction job sites. It is essential to be aware of job site hazards and how to stay safe during the cold winter months.
Dangers of Winter Construction Site Conditions
During winter months, the dangers on construction sites increase as workers have to deal with inclement weather while trying meet strict construction deadlines. Construction companies and contractors should take certain safety precautions to help prevent injury accidents caused by adverse weather.
Common winter hazards on construction sites include:
- Stress caused by cold weather – Workers who are subjected to freezing temperatures often suffer from severe injuries that can lead to long-term or permanent damage and in extreme cases, death. These issues include:
- Frostbite – Construction workers who are working in freezing temperatures without proper clothing are at risk of frostbite. Extended exposure to freezing temperatures can cause loss of feeling to parts of the body. It occurs when the skin and tissue underneath become frozen. Frostbite can cause permanent damage to body tissue and can be debilitating. It most often affects construction workers’ fingers, toes, nose, ears and cheeks. Workers should watch out for the telltale signs of frostbite, which include: skin discoloration that moves from red to white or grey; tingling or loss of feeling in the extremities, and blistering.
- Hypothermia – Construction workers who are exposed to extremely cold conditions will eventually use up their body’s store energy and may experience an unsafe drop in body temperature. If this occurs, they may be at risk of hypothermia, which can lead to loss of consciousness and death. Signs of hypothermia include uncontrolled shivering, disorientation, slowed heart-rate, slurred speech, and loss of coordination.
- Trench Foot – Prolonged exposure to wet and cold temperatures such as standing in ditch water can or working in standing water cause trench foot, also known as immersion foot. The injury occurs because wet feet lose heat much faster than dry feet. To prevent heat loss, the body will constrict blood vessels and shut off the circulation of blood in the feet. This loss of circulation causes the skin tissue to die. Signs of trench foot include numbness, swelling, redness, and blistering.
Tips for preventing cold-stress injuries include wearing warm protective clothing to all and using radiant heaters in break areas.
Winter Weather Construction Work Tips
- Workers should dress in appropriate clothing and cover the ears, face, hands and feet in extremely cold weather.
- Keep handy extra gear such as gloves, extra socks, stocking caps, hand warmers and a change of clothing during cold weather.
- Wear boots that are waterproof and insulated.
- Wear a hat to reduce the amount of heat your body loses.
- Move to warm locations during work breaks.
- Employers should also educate workers to recognize the warning signs of extreme cold stress in their colleagues.
Slip-and-fall injuries in icy conditions
Falls are among the most common injury accidents on construction sites. Wet weather and snow can make walking and working on exposed surfaces more challenging, increasing the risk of slips and falls. Workers may suffer serious injuries, including:
Tips for preventing slip and fall injuries include clearing high-traffic surfaces of ice and snow and utilizing deicer as soon as possible after storms. Employers should make sure that workers always wear insulated, high-traction footwear, use safety lines when working at elevations, and pay close attention to their steps during the icy winter months.
Winter driving accidents
It is no surprise to New Yorkers that inclement weather contributes to 23% of motor vehicle crashes each year, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Workers who operate vehicles on private or secured construction sites may cause an accident during adverse weather by failing to follow basic safe driving rules such as:
- Driving slowly at all times in icy conditions
- Accelerating and decelerating slowly to give yourself more time to maneuver your vehicle safely
- Increasing following distance from 3-4 seconds to 8-10 seconds
- Not trying to power up inclines, which may cause your vehicle’s wheels to spin
- Avoiding stopping if you are climbing a hill. Keep going and rely on inertia to get you over the hill
Tips for preventing winter driving accidents include ensuring that vehicles are maintained adequately before use, providing additional training to workers who will be required to operate vehicles in inclement winter weather, and removing snow and ice from all high-traffic areas.
Tips for Employers
To prevent serious injuries to employees or contractors on the job site, employers can do the following:
- Observe winter forecasts — Pay attention to weather forecasts. Do not force workers to work during extreme conditions like blizzards and extreme cold.
- Inspect the worksite — Job sites should be inspected each day to make sure that no new hazards have formed overnight. During the winter, snow or ice can accumulate overnight.
- Remove ice and snow before performing work — Make sure the job site is clear of snow and dangerous ice before sending workers out to perform their duties.
- Limit workers’ exposure — In extreme cold and other conditions, outdoor work should be completed in shorter sessions, with more indoor breaks.
- Provide radiant heaters in warm break areas — Outdoor work is a necessity on nearly every early-stage construction site. Provide a heated break area for workers who must perform their duties outside.
- Require proper winter clothing and protective gear — To prevent serious (and sometimes fatal) health issues like frostbite and hypothermia, employees should always wear clothing that keeps them dry, warm and gives them traction on slippery surfaces.
- Educate workers on cold-weather dangers — Make sure they know what to do if a fellow worker shows signs of distress or injury in cold condition and address any issues immediately.
It is essential for employers to make sure their work crews are prepared for snow, ice, and extreme temperatures during the winter. While working to meet construction deadlines, it is crucial not to risk the safety of employees for a client’s deadlines. If proper safety protocols are disregarded, serious injuries or death may occur.
Keeping employees and contractors safe on the job site should be an employer’s number one priority. Extreme cold, slip-and-fall hazards, and other inclement weather conditions should be a significant focus for employers during the cold winter months.
By taking the necessary precautions and educating workers on the hazards that cold weather poses, employers can reduce the number of illnesses, injuries, and deaths on construction sites.
Why Workers Need Legal Representation After a Construction Site Injury
Most New York construction workers are unfamiliar with the process of hiring a personal injury lawyer after a construction site accident. The attorneys of David Resnick & Associates, P.C. are available to discuss your accident and explain your legal rights free of charge. We understand you are going through a difficult time. We want to help make the legal process as smooth and free of stress for you as possible.
We understand that you need time to recover or may not be able to handle the physical demands of returning to work immediately. We can deal with all the paperwork that injury claims require so that you can focus on your recovery. At David Resnick & Associates, P.C., we are experienced in handling various types of personal injury cases in New York, and we are ready to help you get the justice that you deserve.
Contact Us Today
Construction workers perform a crucial role in the American economy and deserve to be protected from dangerous working conditions. If you were hurt in an accident while on a jobsite, you may be owed fair compensation for the injury you suffered. If the accident was caused by the reckless or negligent actions of a third-party site owner, construction company, contractor, or other employee, you may be owed compensation beyond your employer’s workers’ compensation coverage.
After you receive medical treatment, the next step to take if you’ve been injured is to call an experienced New York construction accident lawyer to review your injury. Talking with David Resnick & Associates will give you a clearer understanding of your legal options. But we can’t help you unless you call us, so don’t wait until it is too late to file your claim.
Our attorneys are experienced in helping injured workers pursue the compensation for their injuries. Call David Resnick & Associates, P.C., today at (917)382-8135 or contact us online to discuss your situation and put our experience to work for you.