With freezing temperatures construction work can be more hazardous than normal. Many construction projects take place in areas highly exposed to winter weather such as windfarms. When the body is unable to warm itself, cold related stress may result. Four factors contribute to cold stress: cold air temperatures, high velocity air movement, dampness of the air and contact with cold water or surfaces. A cold environment forces the body to work harder to maintain its temperature. Cold air, water, and snow all draw heat from the body. Wind chill is the combination of air temperature and wind speed. Risk Assessments need to be reviewed as extreme low temperatures greatly change and usually increase the risks associated with most external construction work.
The following areas of work are particularly adversely affected by extreme cold conditions:
10 Essentials for You to Include When Risk Assessing and Planning for Construction Work in Extreme Cold Temperatures.
Wearing appropriate clothes for cold weather usually involves using three or more layers of clothing. Provide suitable gloves. Waterproof outer clothing is essential. Ensure Hi Vis clothing is maintained as the outside layer.
Warm, sweet beverages. Thirst is suppressed in a cold environment and dehydration may occur when fluid intake is reduced.
Essential when working in cold environments. Workers in cold environments who wear heavy, protective clothing expend more heat and so require 10-15 percent more calories.
Should be used to provide periodic times for warm-up breaks. Additional breaks should be provided as the wind velocity increases and/or the temperature drops.
Get out of the cold if you can if you are becoming exhausted or immobilised. These conditions can accelerate the effects of cold weather.
Use heaters in areas where practical. Shield work areas from winds and drafts. Use insulating material on equipment handles, especially metal handles, etc.
Make use of the warmest time of the day when braving the cold. Minimise activities that reduce circulation.
Employees should be advised of the symptoms of cold-related stresses: heavy shivering, uncomfortable coldness, severe fatigue, drowsiness and/or euphoria.
Work in pairs when working in extreme weather conditions so partners can monitor one another and obtain help quickly in an emergency
Ensure adequate general and task lighting is provided and is suitable for the size of the workplace and task being carried out.
Above adapted from information provided on the HSA website during the extreme temperature period experienced in 2010