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What precautions should you be taking when it starts getting colder outside?

With winter bringing freezing temperatures and snow in many areas in the U.S., it is important to take care of your safety gear. Learn about the precautions to take on this week’s Dynamic Discussions! When the weather gets colder and winter elements start to appear, it’s essential to take proper precautions on the jobsite. Strong winds, freezing temperatures, and slippery surfaces can present hazards to workers. Knowing and understanding winter safety tips, combined with OSHA weather guidelines, will help to ensure that you and your crew stay safe while working at heights through the winter.

Winter Safety Tips for Employees

Take the necessary precautions to ensure your safety on the work site during weather hazards. Here are a few tips to follow when you work at heights during the winter:

1. Be Aware of the Inclement Weather Construction Law 

The inclement weather construction law protects individuals from working during bad weather conditions because when there is inclement weather, it’s best to avoid working as it can pose extra safety hazards that may not have been analyzed by a competent person. If bad weather occurs, you should ask for an extension on the project to complete the work in a safer environment.

2. Know the OSHA Cold Weather Guidelines

OSHA does not have a specific standard for working in cold weather environments, but employers have a responsibility to present workers with a jobsite that is free from recognized hazards. These perceived dangers include hazards that arise from winter weather that are likely to result in an accident or death.

3. Wear Proper Winter Construction Gear

If you spend all day working outside in the cold, you should wear the proper attire to accommodate the weather. Your footwear is especially important for staying safe in wet or slippery environments. Wear shoes or boots with good traction and insulation. With more traction, you can avoid slipping on snow or ice. Layer up your clothes and wear a warm jacket and hat. It is important to note that puffy jackets and extra layers will cause your safety harness to fit differently.

Harnesses Must Fit Snugly

Your environmental surroundings are a significant factor in the precautions you take with your fall protection equipment. Whether you live in an area where you only need a few layers to stay warm or you must wear a jacket and multiple layers, how you wear and adjust your harness for this accommodation is crucial. 

Your harness should always be on the exterior of your gear so you can tie-off to your fall protection system. You might wear light gear in the summer, but you will most likely start adding layers when it gets colder. Actively adjusting your harness to fit the extra layers you’re wearing throughout the day is vital for your safety. 

If your harness becomes loose because you removed a layer of clothing, you will not be protected effectively. It’s okay to take a few additional minutes to adjust your safety harness properly each time you put it on to make sure you are secure.

To further ensure your safety, have your gear inspected. The inspection will let you know if your gear is suitable to protect you. Keep your gear away from weather hazards when you aren’t using it to prolong the life span and protect the equipment integrity from the elements. A great way to do this is to avoid keeping it in your truck bed — especially in the winter. You don’t want to expose your equipment to salt and other degrading substances. 

Take care of your equipment and always account for what type of gear it is when inspecting and storing it. If you must depend on your safety harness and self-retracting lifeline or lanyard to save your life, you should want them to be in good shape and suitable for your environment.

Visit our safety resource library to download free easy-to-follow inspection forms.

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