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Plan, Equip, and Train for Winter Weather Part 1

Winter construction presents an array of unique challenges for contractors and their workers. As temperatures drop, new hazards arise, and contractors are responsible for ensuring that their workforce is equipped with the tools and knowledge to work safely. In this two-part series, the OSHA lawyers at Cotney Construction Law will discuss how contractors can prepare their workforce for hazards related to winter weather.

In order to prevent injuries, illnesses, and fatalities in the winter, contractors must be extra diligent of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) guidelines for working in frigid conditions. OSHA doesn’t typically give advance notice before conducting an inspection, so partner with one of our OSHA lawyers to stay ahead of the curve and avoid a citation.

Winter Driving

It’s imperative that contractors impress the importance of safe driving in the minds of their workers. Operating heavy machinery on icy roads has a high potential for disaster if workers fail to commit themselves to safe driving principles. Training your workers how to drive properly in winter weather can help you avoid a costly OSHA citation. Another important facet of winter driving safety is a comprehensive maintenance program for any vehicles being utilized during projects. Ensuring that all of your equipment is in tip-top shape can help you avoid crashes, rollovers, and skids.

Contractors should verify that trained workers have performed vehicle system inspections on the following parts:

  • Brakes: Check brake fluid levels and balance.
  • Cooling System: Verify that the cooling system has a 50/50 antifreeze and water mixture at the proper level.
  • Electrical System: Check the ignition system, battery, and alternator belt. The battery should be fully charged with clean connections and the alternator belt should have the correct level of tension.
  • Engine: Perform a multi-point inspection of all engine systems.
  • Exhaust System: Inspect the exhaust system for leaks and ensure that clamps and hangers are secure.
  • Oil: Check the oil level.
  • Tires: Check tire tread, tire pressure, and inspect for signs of damage or uneven wear.
  • Visibility Systems: Check exterior lights, defrosters, and wipers. You may need to outfit vehicles with winter windshield wipers.

OSHA also recommends that all vehicles contain an emergency kit to provide workers with vital resources in the event of a crash or other vehicular accident. This kit should include a cellphone or two-way radio, windshield ice scraper, snow brush, flashlight with extra batteries, shovel, tow chain, traction aids (bag of sand or cat litter), emergency flares, jumper cables, snacks, water, road maps, blankets, and a change of clothes.

Work Zone Traffic Safety

Every year, accidents involving workers being struck by vehicles or mobile equipment are responsible for numerous injuries and fatalities. In the winter, roads turn icy, which greatly increases the chance of a driver losing control of their vehicle and skidding out of control. To help reduce the chance of such an accident occurring within the zoning for your project, your workers should be instructed to set up traffic controls such as signs, cones, barrels, and barriers to protect workers. Visibility is another common concern during the winter, so provide your workers with high visibility vests.

To learn more about how to plan, equip, and train for winter weather, read part two.

If you would like to speak with one of our OSHA attorneys, please contact us today.

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.