Top Takeaway: Working at height in the winter can be dangerous, but you can reduce the risks by planning ahead, dressing appropriately, and monitoring yourself and others for signs of cold
stress.

Winter is the most challenging season for any outdoor job-site, but cold weather and blowing snow can make working at height even more hazardous. Follow these best practices to stay safe
this winter, no matter the height or temperature.

  1. Clear snow and ice.
    Falling is always the most obvious risk of working at height, but ice and snow make it an even greater hazard. Black ice, whether caused by fluctuating temperatures or frozen
    condensation, is a common problem but is often hard to spot. Similarly, snow can melt and refreeze or compact over time, making it difficult to remove and easy to slip on.
    Make sure to shovel and de-ice regularly to prevent falls or painful slips.
  2. Pay attention to the weather.
    Storms can rise quickly in the winter, reducing visibility to white-out conditions and blowing any unsecured objects (or people) over edges. Check the weather in advance
    and make sure your site has all necessary controls put in place, but don’t let your guard down if there’s a clear forecast. Pay attention to the weather throughout the day to give
    your workers plenty of time to get to safety before a storm, and ensure workers wear high-visibility equipment so they are easy to spot if rescue is needed.
  3. Prepare for wind.
    Even without blowing snow, wind presents a serious challenge at height. Faster winds caused by higher altitude can accelerate cold stress and must be carefully worked
    around. Keep any loose materials securely fastened when not in use and provide protected areas where workers can regularly step out of the wind to warm up. Monitor
    wind readings on the ground and at height to ensure no equipment is damaged and everyone stays safe.
  4. Avoid cold stress.
    Cold stress occurs when the body cools down faster than it can warm up. It can cause disorientation, numbness, frostbite, and hypothermia, and worsens quickly once it sets
    in. It is especially dangerous to people working at height as it could be hard to get back to the ground for treatment if it progresses too far. Ensure everyone on site knows the
    signs of cold stress and how to immediately treat them. Consult your local work safety board for more information on cold stress and its symptoms.
  5. Dress for the weather.
    Your clothes are your first level of defense against winter hazards. Dress in layers to create adjustable insulation against the cold and wind, making sure to wear a
    waterproof top layer. If any of your clothes soak through, change into something dry as soon as possible. To prevent slipping on icy rungs or platforms, wear high-traction boots
    and gloves that fit tightly without cutting off circulation.
  6. Protect your PPE.
    If your fall equipment freezes and thaws repeatedly, the material can stiffen or rot, weakening it and put the user at risk. Likewise, drying it with an electric dryer or heater
    can stiffen or melt the material. Store your PPE properly in a cool area where it can dry completely without the risk of freezing, and always check your equipment before using
    it for damage or weakness.
  7. Inspect your station.
    Winter weather and temperatures can be hard on structures and equipment, so always check over the area you will be working on before starting for the day. This is especially
    crucial if you will be working on a platform, lift, or scaffolding for the day, as there is less room to maneuver if something weakens or snaps.
  8. Plan for rescues.
    Winter weather throws extra challenges into completing emergency rescues. Uncleared snow, ice, and low visibility can make a straightforward rescue plan nearly impossible,
    so it is imperative that you have more than one plan in place. Brainstorm a list of winter hazards that could impede rescues and make multiple plans to account for every area.
    It’s a lot of work upfront, but it will pay off in the long run if the worst should happen.
  9. Work in pairs.
    If cold stress sets in, disorientation and numbness can make it difficult to recognize the need to stop working and get treatment. Even if a person is aware of what is happening,
    they may ignore warning signs of illness to finish what they’re working on. Work in pairs to monitor each other’s conditions and to ensure that if cold stress does occur it is
    treated immediately.
  10. Train your crew.
    It isn’t enough for management and supervisors to be aware of winter hazards; everyone on site needs to be prepared for what winter will bring to the jobsite. Train
    your crew to identify and deal with hazards, cold stress symptoms, and emergency protocols to ensure that everyone will be safe this winter.
crane lifting safety tips

Top Takeaway:

Wind is a major hazard when working at height, even on days that seem calm. Be prepared by keeping objects and tools that are not in use well secured, and always wear the appropriate PPE for the job you’re doing.

Windy days can make working at height dangerous for everyone on the job-site. Strong gusts
can cause you to lose balance, blow tools and materials off of platforms, and weaken structures. Follow these best practices to ensure a safe job-site, no matter the weather.

DO Use a wind meter.

General wind readings are usually taken at ground level and cover a large area, like a city or
neighborhood. This makes them a useful tool for planning, but they don’t provide enough
information to ensure safety on your job-site, especially when heights are involved. Wind speeds
can increase by up to 50% at 20 meters above ground, which means a manageable breeze on
the ground can translate to near gale force winds at height. Use one of our NAVIS wind meters
to get accurate readings that reflect how your site is affected by gusts and how the surrounding
buildings and landscapes are influencing wind currents.

DON’T Underestimate gusts.

Even on calm days, gust of wind are still hazardous, as they can come out of nowhere and
travel up to two times faster than the average wind-speed. Again, use a wind meter to monitor
conditions, as you may need to quit working at height if gusts are too strong, and store
materials and tools securely when not in use.

DO Treat flat materials with caution.

Flat materials like sheets of plywood can easily turn into sails if hit by strong enough winds,
and can drag people off heights or fall onto those working below. On windy or gusty days, make
sure to carry flat materials horizontally in pairs and secure them tightly when not in use.

DON’T React to blowing objects.

Strong winds can blow away tools, hard hats, papers, and more, but at height it’s important to
fight the immediate urge to catch blowing objects. It sounds counter-intuitive but reacting too
quickly could cause you to lose your balance or could distract you from other hazards blowing
toward you. If something begins to blow away, take a beat before retrieving it to ensure you can
do so in a safe way.

DO wear the right Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

The right PPE could make the difference between a close call and a trip to the hospital. Wear eye
protection on breezy days to keep out dust and debris, and make sure your hard hat is securely fastened to keep it from blowing off your head. Most importantly, always wear a harness at heights of 1.5 meters and above, as 30% of fatal falls happen at heights of 2 meters or lower, and 50% happen at 3 meters or less.

DON’T Make covers without holes.

It may be tempting to create a sheltered area in windy conditions (especially if they’re coupled with
cold weather) but like sheets of material, covers made of tarp or plywood can tear away whatever anchor or platform they’re attached to if caught by a strong enough wind. We don’t recommend making these kinds of shelters, but if you must make a cover for yourself, cut holes in it to allow the wind to pass through without carry it away.

DO Know when to stop working.

Losing a day of work is manageable, losing a co-worker to injury or worse is not. Create a plan to deal with windy conditions. We’ve found Wilkins Safety Group’s Beaufort Scale Safety Guide, which details
the precautions that should be taken at various wind speeds, is an extremely helpful tool in creating
this plan.

DON’T Assume, inspect your structures.

Strong winds over extended periods of time can cause structures to weaken or lean at unsafe angles.
Always check over scaffolding, platforms and their anchor points after a wind storm to ensure they are
still secure to work on, and that nothing has shifted that will cause them to fall or collapse.

Click here to learn more about wind safety devices. 

Click here to download this post for your files.

Windy smartphone anemometer

Safety is paramount on any production set and in an industry where getting just the right shot can make all the difference, that safety is even more critical when people and equipment are being lifted high in the air.

To read the full case study, click here.

For more information about the NAVIS Anemometer systems, click here.