We’ve posted a number of blogs that discuss the importance of health and safety when working at height or on a scaffolding structure, but these requirements can change with the seasons.
While there are always significant health and safety risks that arise when working on, or around, scaffolding, during the winter months, these risks are heightened and should be managed with care and attention.
Risks to consider
Poor weather conditions, including heavy rain, wind, snow, or ice, could significantly impact a construction teams ability to complete their work. Similarly, if workers are out in the cold for too long, it could result in illness or the inability to complete work safely. Staff wellbeing is always a priority, and should not be taken lightly in a position that requires significant exposure to the elements.
Slips, Trips, Falls
With bad weather, comes an increased risk of slips, trips and falls. This is possibly the greatest risk associated with scaffolding, no matter what time of year it is, but during winter it is likely that ladders and wooden walking planks can become extremely slippery when hit with rain, ice, or snow. High wind could also risk workers losing their balance, which may result in a catastrophic accident.
Materials and equipment will also be at risk of falling dependent on the weather conditions, so constant vigilance should be maintained at all times.
Measures to take
Now that the risks have been highlighted, it is important to consult with your scaffolding company to ensure that the following measures are in place to ensure health and safety on site at all times.
Increase safety checks
Increased safety checks will ensure that any potential safety issues are identified and fixed before any accidents can occur, and are vitally important this time of year as the weather can cause more risk for workers. Many general health and safety checks should be conducted on a regular basis anyway, including scaffolding structure risk assessments. The structure of the frame should be reinforced against poor weather conditions such as wind and rain, and again, should be checked frequently. The structure should also be cleaned regularly to remove mud and ice that could cause an accident.
Keep an eye on the weather
If the weather becomes too difficult to manage, i.e. a torrential downpour, high winds, heavy snowfall, or a severe frost in the mornings, then it may be best to postpone work until conditions improve. Keeping an eye on the projected weather forecast will help to identify times that work may have to be paused, however, this can be changeable so always prepare for the worst.
Be Seen and Safe
The winter nights draw in quickly, therefore, if working throughout the night is unavoidable, lighting and visibility should be kept in mind at all times. This includes the use of high visibility clothing and spotlights and torches to light up the structure and area of work.
Avoid risk of slip
Harnesses should always be worn when working at height, and they become an even more vital tool in the winter months when looking to prevent slips and falls. Slip-resistant boards can be installed instead of wooden planks to further reduce the possibility of an accident, and this must be reinforced by appropriate footwear worn by all.
Take regular breaks in the warm
As stated earlier, working in cold and wet conditions can impact the wellbeing and productivity of workers. Regular breaks should be taken in warmer conditions by everyone exposed to the elements. In addition to this, workers should all wear additional layers and thermal clothing when on the structure.
TH Scaffolding is dedicated to ensuring all necessary health and safety measures are taken every season. Visit TH Scaffolding website for more information on our commitment to health and safety, or to request any of our scaffolding services.