Minimise the Winter Hazards on Your Construction Site

Minimise the Winter Hazards on Your Construction Site

09 June 2022

Your construction site could face an extra suite of hazards with the onset of winter. Here's how to identify and deal with them promptly.

Slips, trips, and falls

Wintry weather increases the risks of wet, slippery, and icy surfaces that cause slips, trips and falls. This is when scaffolding, ladders, stairs, work platforms, and walkways can be extra risky because of the conditions.

These accidents may lead to joint, head, or back injuries, for example, but they are preventable. Follow these steps to reduce the likelihood of injury:

  • Ensure high foot traffic areas are clean and dry
  • Ask workers to wear boots with good grip, supportive soles, as well as waterproof clothing, winter-grade lined gloves, and beanies
  • High-vis clothing is a must, particularly when it's foggy
  • Wipe muddy boots or shoes before climbing scaffolding
  • Consider rescheduling tasks such as those which need high visibility or working at heights to days with less fog and frost
  • Emphasise safer winter working in training and regular toolbox meetings or via your online workplace safety app, if you use one.

And just a word about making scaffolding safer, South Korean researchers are leveraging blockchain as an information management tool for scaffolding. The system stores and verifies information via a smart contract and could help minimise safety risks. You can read the full study here.

Protect against winter colds

It pays to practise good hygiene to prevent illnesses such as a winter cold, flu (or the coronavirus) coming onto your site.

Best practices to deflect these common winter illnesses include:

  • Place hand sanitisers at entry/exit points and other high traffic areas on your site
  • Encourage people to sneeze into their elbow rather than their hand
  • Clean the amenities block and workrooms regularly
  • Stress the good hygiene message with posters in high-traffic areas
  • Share information with your workers about the protection a flu vaccine and COVID-19 boost shots offer.

Being chilled or wet won't automatically mean your workers will get a virus. However, they will be more susceptible if very tired, stressed, or have allergies with nose and throat symptoms, says WebMD.

Wind and rain

Another risk – year-round - are strong winds, such as unexpected gusts that could unbalance those working at heights such as on a raised platform or roof, may also be a danger. Harnesses, handrails and fail-arrest systems help, but even better if you can postpone work until the wind abates.

Extended time spent in the cold and wet could elevate workers' risks of chilblains and even trench foot. Even worse, it can lead to hyperaemia, when the affected area becomes swollen, blistered, painful, and could become gangrenous.

Minimise this worst-case scenario with these practices:

  • Rotate your workers and tasks, so they're not left in the cold for a prolonged period
  • Ensure they have regular breaks to warm up and keep hydrated, such as with hot drinks in a heated area
  • Ask them to bring a spare set of clothes, just in case they get sodden on site.

Cold weather increases the risk of RSI

Repetitive strain injuries are potentially debilitating. They can happen when muscles are cold, so less flexible, meaning workers risk strain from overuse. Blood circulation is also reduced if their body or hand temperatures are low. This increases toxic by-products to build up in muscles adding to risks.

Suggest these six physio-endorsed stretches for tradies to help workers prepare for the chilly weather.

Workers' compensation insurance

Managing your risk profile well for winter risks on your construction sites takes forethought and commitment. Meanwhile, compulsory workers' compensation insurance for your employees adds an extra layer of protection, but such policies can vary widely. At a minimum, it will cover:

  • A portion of the injured workers' wages while they're unfit to work
  • Workers' lost earnings if they're forced to work less due to the injury
  • All treatment costs, such as doctor's fees, medications, and hospitalisation
  • Costs of rehabilitating the injured worker.

Public liability insurance

Public Liability insurance covers personal injury to people who are not your employees and sustain injury due to your negligence. This is often included as part of a Construction Works policy.

Public liability insurance covers damage to third party property and injuries caused to the public as a result of activities of construction workers.

We can help you find a cost-effective, customised policy for your construction business as well as guide you on better risk management.

This content is created and provided by Finnigan Investments (Australia) Pty Ltd trading as OneAffiniti on behalf of Austral Risk Services, and is for commercial purposes. Any financial product advice in this content is provided by Austral Risk Services AFSL No. 244369. This material is general in nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Accordingly, before acting on it, you should consider its appropriateness to your circumstances.