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Top Tips for Keeping Warm on the Construction Site

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construction site health and safety

We all know that construction work doesn’t get put on ice when the cold weather comes around. Working in the cold can be dangerous if you don’t take the necessary precautions to keep your body warm and dry on the construction site.

Once the temperatures begin to drop, outside work quickly becomes a lot more challenging than it is in the warmer months. Follow these top tips for keeping warm on the construction site, so that you and your employees can enjoy a safe, warm, and productive winter.

Know the signs of cold stress

Cold stress occurs when the body is unable to warm itself and can lead to further issues if not addressed, such as hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia occurs when your body begins to lose heat faster than its produced, and your core body temperature falls below 95°F.

Common symptoms include shivering, shallow breathing, confusion, loss of coordination, drowsiness, slurred speech, and slow, weak pulse, but occur in three stages.

· First stage: shivering, reduced circulation.

· Second stage: slow, weak pulse, slowed breathing, lack of co-ordination, irritability, confusion and sleepy behaviour.

· Advanced stage: slow, weak or absent respiration and pulse.

If someone is showing symptoms of hypothermia, it is imperative to get their core temperature back up. Remove all wet clothing and move the person to a dry, warm area. Use blankets and additional clothing to increase their temperature.

Frostbite is damage to skin and tissue caused by exposure to freezing temperatures – typically any temperature below -0.55C (31F), and can affect any part of your body, but the extremities, such as the hands, feet, ears, nose and lips, are most likely to be affected.

Hold a safety meeting or toolbox talk on days when the forecast calls for extremely cold temperatures to hammer home the dangers of cold stress, hypothermia, and frostbite. Have your employees check in on each other at frequent intervals since hypothermia can cause confusion, which could lead to them not recognizing they are suffering from it, but also lead to other accidents.

Wear appropriate layers

The general rule of thumb here is putting on at least three layers when working in the cold. You want to make sure that your layers fit well and allow for a full range of motion without exposing you to the cold.

It is recommended to wear the following layers to ensure adequate heat retention during cold weather:

· Wicking layer: the layer closest to your skin should be able to remove moisture from the skin and transfer it to the next layer. Excellent options include synthetic or polypropylene long johns, tops and socks.

· Light insulating layer: continue with the first insulating layer. This can be either a thin wool sweater or a light fleece.

· Heavy insulating layer: the purpose of insulation is to trap as much heat as possible in the body, without causing you to sweat. A heavier fleece or wool sweater is a great option to keep you warm.

· Windproof and waterproof shell: the outermost layer protects your body from various weather conditions, from wind to rain and wet snow. Find a soft garment made of treated fabric that stops wind and water.

Stay dry

Remaining in wet clothes will lower your body temperature too. This is why it is important for your base layer to wick moisture away from your body, and that your outer layer is waterproof to keep moisture from getting in. It’s also a good idea to have spare clothing with you, so you can change them, should they get wet.

Fuel your body with something warm

Make sure you have a thermos flask of a hot beverage of choice to warm you up when needed. It is recommended to eat a hot meal at lunchtime or bring an extra thermos full of soup. Your body expends a lot of energy when working in the cold, so it’s important to keep it fueled so that excess heat is not lost.

At CoreGenic, we offer a range of expert services to support the health and safety compliance of your organisation, such as consultations, audits, project and site management, training and more. Get in touch with our team today to learn how we can support your business’ health and safety compliance.