Winter is Coming!

December 21 Chris Kelly

During the winter months, prevention and preparation are key for properties, job sites and employees. When winter hits the hope is to have a heated site where employees are working mostly indoors, but this is not always possible. Frank Gray, of TRITEC Building Company, was asked to provide some tips on worker and site safety during wet, cold weather:

  1. Maintain safe ingress, egress and well-traveled routes inside the project by minimizing the build up of snow, ice and mud. Gravel pathways can help to improve traction into and around these areas.
  2. Have rock salt/ deicer and kitty litter/or sand on site in case of icing. Rock salt and deicer help to melt ice on slippery surfaces while sand and kitty litter provide additional traction.
  3. Ice and snow can accumulate quickly, especially on elevated surfaces such as roofs and scaffolds; proper safety gear should be worn at all times.
  4. Maintain a well-organized site to help reduce the potential for slips and falls in snow or icy conditions. Snow and ice can camouflage potential hazards like holes, so make sure potential dangers are well marked.
  5. Dress appropriately for working in cold, wet weather. Layering helps keep warmth in and cold out. Thermal undershirts and socks are a good starting point. Synthetic material is good for damp or wet conditions and all of your winter gear should be properly rated. Wearing protective footwear is a must on any construction site but when working in cold wet weather make sure shoes or boots provide traction on the snow and ice. Wearing insulated gloves to allow you to safely operate the tools of your trade is imperative. Keep your hands out of your pockets to help maintain balance and be able to break your fall if you should slip.
  6. Keeping hydrated is as important during the winter months as it is in the summer months. As you move about in the cold you may not be sweating, but water vapor is still being lost through your breath. Winter weather can also accelerate dehydration because blood vessels constrict in cold weather to conserve heat and maintain body temperature. The shrinking of blood vessels increases blood pressure.  To lower blood pressure kidneys make more urine, meaning less blood to fill veins and arteries, more frequent trips to the bathroom and greater risk of dehydration. Drinking warm soups, broths or sugary liquids is best for warming up. Avoid excess caffeine; caffeine increases your heart rate and accelerates dehydration.

OSHA has published danger signs for individuals working in cold weather to include: uncontrolled shivering, slurred speech, clumsy movements, fatigue and confused behavior. To help keep workers safe allow then to take frequent short breaks, in warm dry shelters, to allow their bodies to warm up. Try to schedule work for the warmest part of the day.

Bob Taliana, Director of Property Management, said,“Prevention is the key to getting your property ready for winter weather.”

  1. Make sure your properties are well maintained before the storm hits. Dilapidated roofs and siding or poorly maintained parking lots can become expensive and hazardous if they are not taken care of before winter.
  2. Your entire staff needs to know where emergency turn offs are for electric power, gas and water in every building. If only one staff member is aware of these turn offs and they are unable to make it to the building, then the knowledge is useless.
  3. Having good vendors can be invaluable in severe winter weather.  Not only do you need companies to deal with the immediate effects of the storm, such as snow removal and salting, but you may also want to foster relationships with vendors to be sure you have the ability to deal with additional storm damage. These vendors would include local utilities and roofers, to name a few.
  4. You need to be able to communicate with workers and tenants to help maintain safety. “TRITEC continues to use some older methods of communicating, such as a phone chain. This is utilized during an emergency, contacting office managers and key employees, but we have taken to using newer technologies such as social media, as well. TRITEC’s Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Google+ accounts are updated in regards to building closures and other important information so everyone knows what is going on.” said Bob Taliana, Director of Property Management. “Being able to quickly let people know the buildings are closed is helpful to us while we work to get the buildings up and running, but also helpful to municipalities who are working to get streets reopened.

Make sure that your insurance coverage is up to snuff, as well. There is nothing worse than thinking your insurance covers a circumstance or issue, only to find out after the fact that you were mistaken. Have an in-depth conversation with your insurance agent and find out what is covered, what isn’t, and assess how you will bridge any gaps.