Wintertime in the Great Lakes State brings frigid temperatures and months of wet conditions and snowfall. Towns in northern Michigan and the upper peninsula experience as much as 180 inches of snow each year. With snowfall and snowstorms beginning to form this winter, Michigan-based contractors must ramp up their safety and training meetings to combat the cold.
In this brief article, a Michigan OSHA lawyer will discuss three safety topics related to Michigan jobsites during the winter. Remember, an unsafe worksite can lead to an injury or a citation. If your jobsite has been issued a penalty from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), consult a Michigan OSHA attorney. At Cotney Construction Law, we are committed to representing construction companies in any safety-related legal issue.
1. Winter Attire
Construction professionals always need to wear the right clothes and personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure their safety and productivity. When winter weather hits, clothing choice on the jobsite only becomes more important. It will come as no surprise that some common pieces of apparel for the winter construction worker include:
- Thermal Socks
- Thermal Gloves
- Waterproof Non-Slip Work Boots
- Wool Fabrics
- Insulated Pants
- Polyester Thermal Underwear
- Long Sleeve Shirts
- Wool Cap Under the Hardhat
Bonus: 4 More Tips Related to Clothing
Here are four more things to consider related to PPE on the winter jobsite:
- Avoid Cotton: Although it’s excellent summer attire for the jobsite, cotton can easily get wet and quickly reduce a worker’s body temperature.
- Wear Multiple Layers: Workers should wear several layers that can be easily removed when needed. The most outer layer should be waterproof and the most inner layer should be insulated.
- Reserve Layers: Additional clothing and blankets should be stored nearby in a warm sheltered area located on the jobsite.
- Thermal Everything: Contractors should also weather-proof their tools and equipment by covering these resources with thermal-insulated material to ensure that all workers have a firm grip when handling equipment.
2. Stretching Exercises
Along with wearing the right attire to be comfortable and productive, site managers need to stress that their workforce should warm up before the start of each day. As construction is extremely physical work that can lead to muscle injuries in the cold, construction professionals should perform a morning warmup stretch to decrease muscle stiffness, improve range of motion, and reduce the chances of an injury occurring. Stretching also can improve each worker’s circulation, which reduces muscle soreness.
Contractors should also provide workers with plenty of short breaks in warm areas, pair workers together so they can monitor each other as they work, and try to schedule work to be performed during the warmest hours of the day.
3. Detecting Issues
Working outside in the wet and windy elements presents many challenges, including those that expose workers to serious health conditions. When exposed for a significant amount of time, workers may be susceptible to serious medical conditions like frostbite and hypothermia. Some common symptoms experienced by a worker with a dangerously low body temperature include shivering, difficulty speaking, fatigue, red skin, lack of coordination, and difficulty breathing.
Workers that are beginning to show any of the above symptoms should be removed from the cold and placed in a warm shelter. Any wet clothing should be removed, and their breathing should be closely monitored. Although direct heat like hot water should not be applied to the worker, a warm compress can be applied to their neck and torso area. If a worker appears to be experiencing hypothermia, seek immediate medical attention.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.