The summer is well and truly behind us and, as we settle into the cosier part of the year with its short days and descending temperatures, companies all over the country adapt their job sites to the particularities of the British winter time. At Mr Plant Hire we are well aware of the hazards and implications of working in the colder months. With so many points to consider, we have put together a short guide to the main hazards of winter construction work as well as our tips for equipping your site for the winter season.
WINTER SITE HAZARDS
Winter construction work comes with its own set of hazards. The main issues affecting workers during the winter season are the discomfort brought about by cold temperatures and humidity. We also have to factor in the difficulty of working with winter light levels, with part of the working day often taking place in the dark.
Reduced visibility onsite is an important issue as it can significantly hinder workers’ ability to carry out tasks and operate machinery safely. The need for outdoor job site lighting may be a given for a lot of construction companies, yet correct indoor lighting shouldn’t be overlooked, as a slight reduction in light levels can dramatically compromise worker safety when operating power tools.
Humidity can also bring about issues for personnel safety as well as for tool and machine operation. Humidity underfoot will greatly increase the risk of slips and falls, and we mustn't forget that this effect also applies to any equipment being used on damp ground.
Damp or boggy ground will be prone to sinking, posing an important safety threat for scaffolding as well as for any machines operating on this terrain.
Mud and rainwater splashing around on a job site can affect tool and machine operation, create uncomfortable working conditions, damage materials and machines and make a considerable mess.
Low temperatures have a direct effect on workers, on the ground conditions and on every element on a site. Materials will often behave differently when exposed to extreme cold, which can affect product viscosity and setting times. Machines and equipment can be affected by the cold. A number of machines are classed as unsafe to use when temperatures dip below a certain level, so these are things that should be taken into account.
Obviously, worker comfort can be seriously affected by the cold, which inevitably affects personal and site safety, as well as productivity and work quality.
Other seasonal issues may arise which can impact site safety. Fallen leaves in the autumn are the cause of numerous slips and falls each year.
ASSESSING THE RISK
Site hazards will vary depending on whether your winter construction site is fully exposed to the elements, whether parts of the site are sheltered or work is being carried out indoors.
Although a site may be sheltered, there can still be a risk of water filtering in from other parts of the site, and this must be taken into account. When assessing your site:
- Identify any areas that may be affected by ice, fallen leaves, gathered water or mud.
- Identify the parts of your site that are susceptible to changes in weather conditions.
- Identify any areas that will require additional lighting.
- Identify any areas that may require construction site heating.
Once you have assessed all the hazards and potential risks around your site, you will be able to prepare a detailed plan and an inventory for equipping your site. As well as specialised equipment, you will also need detailed safety procedures which should include any extra tasks to be carried out, such as gritting paths or clearing leaves. Any safety instructions to be followed as regards the use of any equipment, as well as any training requirements should all be taken into account.
CORRECTLY EQUIPPING YOUR WINTER SITE
The main points to be considered when seeking equipment for the winter construction site are:
- Avoiding slips and falls
- Providing shelter
- Barriers and Signage
Avoiding slips and falls is a high priority, especially if your team is working at height.If you are likely to be using access equipment for work at height, speak to MPH about the safety options such as non-slip boards and guardrails.
Providing shelter around your site may be a simple task or you may require the hire or purchase of welfare facilities. Welfare cabins providing canteens, toilet facilities and offices can be sourced for large outdoor sites, depending on your needs.
Construction site heating is an extremely important consideration on the winter site, and there are a great number of gas and electric options available for heating and drying. MPH provides a range of options including gas cabinet heaters, gas space heaters, electric fan and infrared heaters and much more.
Good job site lighting is essential in winter. MPH provides site lighting solutions hire services with options for different applications.Our festoon lighting adds visibility and is typically used for marking out hazards in low visibility areas. Our range of portable site lighting provides workers with the flexibility of moving or adjusting the illumination around the site, in response to their needs. Lighting towers, however, are the perfect solution when powerful lighting is needed for large-scale outdoor work or events.
A well-equipped site will also include the correct signage to warn anyone on the site as to the existing hazards, as well as barriers or fences to help reduce the risk of falls and accidents.
Personnel should be provided with cold weather PPE and must be trained in the specific dangers of the winter site as well as the use of all of the machinery and equipment they will be working with, paying special attention to any cold weather instructions provided by equipment manufacturers.
To equip your construction site for work this winter, or for helpful advice on the best tools and equipment for working in cold weather, why not speak to Mr Plant Hire today?
At MPH we have extensive experience in tool and equipment hire for even the most challenging of winter sites. For heating or lighting hire in North London, or for information on any of our products, feel free to get in touch on 020 8351 3434. At MPH we are always happy to help.