Managing construction site hazards is a challenge during ideal weather conditions; adding winter presents an entirely new host of risks. There are the apparent cold-weather health issues for site personnel, the increased difficulty in getting equipment operational, and, of course, slips, trips, and falls created from a wide range of walking-working surfaces. Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures multiply the number of slippery surfaces such as stairways, ladders, scaffolding, machinery, and walkways.
Slips, trips, and falls are some of the most common winter workplace injuries resulting in concussions, fractured bones, herniated discs, muscle strain/sprains, or worse. The following six tips can help to mitigate slips, trips, and falls during the winter season1:
Keep walkways, stairways, and other work areas clear. Remove hazards, such as water and snow on poured concrete floors and sidewalks.
When walking, look where you are going and have your hands ready to steady yourself should you slip.
Avoid carrying heavy loads that may compromise your balance.
Mark hazardous work areas if they are slippery or dangerous. Use temporary signs, cones, barricades, or floor stands to warn passing workers.
While outdoors, wear footwear with heavy treads for increased traction. Walk-in grassy areas if a walkway is covered in ice.
How you navigate winter conditions can also have a significant impact on maintaining your stability and lessening the chance of a fall. Taking shortcuts through snow and ice increases risk, so whenever possible take an alternate route even if it means adding more time to reach your destination.
Being mindful of some slight changes in the way we walk through winter conditions may also have positive impacts on mitigating risks.
Take short, flat steps; the heels and soles of your shoes should stay in contact with the ground as long as possible.
Walk at a slower pace so you can react quickly to a change in traction.
Leave your hands and arms free and out of your pockets to better balance yourself. Carrying items will challenge your sense of balance.
Be aware of black ice paying particular attention for a shine on asphalt pavement and try to avoid it.
Shuffle your feet when walking on newly fallen snow, ice might be lurking underneath.