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Winter cold poses serious risk for construction workers

Most construction workers appreciate not being stuck behind a desk all day. However, New York is not the type of place where it’s partly cloudy with comfortable temperatures every day. Construction workers must endure the challenges of working in an environment that experiences all four seasons. The cold temperatures of winter can pose significant hazards to people working on construction sites.

Steps employers should take to ensure worker safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) recognizes that employers have a duty to protect workers from known hazards, including those brought on by falling temperatures. Some steps employers should take to help ensure the safety and well-being of their workers include:

  • Providing proper protection: The combination of high winds and low temperatures can cause frostbite to exposed skin in a matter of minutes. Insulated boots, gloves, and jackets can help protect workers from this serious hazard. Head and face coverings are also crucial to preventing painful injuries.
  • Setting aside time for breaks: Sub-zero temps are not necessary for workers to suffer from cold-related injuries. Working in cooler weather for an extended period of time can also lead to harm. Employers should provide a sheltered, heated area for employees to warm up when the weather begins to take its toll.
  • Considering factors other than air temperature: Temperature is only one risk factor for hypothermia. Anyone who has endured a New York winter can tell you that the wind can make things that much worse. Stiff winds can cause the body to lose heat rapidly. Wind, combined with damp clothes, can be a recipe for disaster. Employers should keep an eye on factors other than the temperature to help keep workers as safe as possible.
  • Train employees to recognize warning signs: A person won’t suffer a cold-related injury without showing some warning signs. Workers should be trained to recognize the symptoms of hypothermia, frostbite, and other hazards so they can take swift action when necessary.

Weather is something that is beyond our control. However, employers can and must help minimize the risks workers face when working in tough conditions. Consider speaking with an attorney if you’ve suffered a weather-related injury while working on a construction project.

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