Working on a construction site in the northeast means being prepared for all kinds of weather. In winter, conditions can be frigid and crews need to protect themselves from the elements in order to stay safe and on schedule.
Retaining as much heat as possible, both structurally and personally, is the key to success. Here are some tips from our Project Superintendents on how to dress warmly and insulate your site during the cold months.
Preparing your Site
- Set internal thermostats at 55-60 degrees to provide a base temperature on site.
- Close off openings using tarps or other temporary barriers. Because heat rises and most often escapes at the top, pay close attention to stairwells and elevator shafts, closing them off at their highest point.
- Use portable electric heaters throughout site, moving around as appropriate to protect workers in different areas of the site.
- Provide mats or plywood for workers to stand on when working in cold temperatures for long periods of time.
- Check your insurance policy and equipment, as extreme cold may impact your machinery.
Protecting your workers and yourself
- Dress in layers, so that you are warmest in the early part of the day and able to remove clothing as temperatures rise throughout the day. Look for moisture-wicking base layers, thermal insulated coveralls and fleece, double layer thermal socks, gloves including a liner, insulated boots, and helmet liners.
- Wear wrap-around eye protection help trap heat in the body, and protect your eyes from dryness due to cold and wind.
- Keep exposed skin to a minimum. Wear turtlenecks instead of scarves to protect the neck without risking injury by getting hanging clothing caught in machinery.
- Use and provide hand and toe warmers to your crew, and educate your crew on the dangers of hypothermia and frostbite. Encourage them to take breaks when any numbness occurs in the hands or feet.
- Use barrier creams on any exposed skin to avoid frostbite. Beards can also be very insulating for men on the job site.
While these tips will help keep your project on track, a good Superintendent knows how to be realistic. Know what production you should expect in extreme conditions and schedule work and manpower accordingly. Be compassionate about your crew’s well-being and safety, but don’t let workers take advantage of the weather and put you behind schedule unnecessarily.