Eastman Insight: Important Safety Tips to Combat Harsh Winter Weather

Eastman Insight: Important Safety Tips to Combat Harsh Winter Weather

Falling temperatures, wind chills, ice and snow – these are just some of the weather conditions that make working outdoors challenging during winter months. With extensive safety knowledge and experience, our fantastic Eastman Cooke team works together to ensure that our crews and jobsites remain protected from the harsh elements of winter.

Wear Appropriate Attire

Before heading to the jobsite, bundle up to shield yourself from the cold. “With today’s technology, there is a multitude of heated clothing you can wear,” says Philip Butkowski, Superintendent, Eastman Cooke. “Investing in a pair of sturdy boots with slip protection is also recommended.”

If you don’t want to pay steep prices for heated gloves, jackets, or other winter-wear, you can go the traditional route. “We advise all our workers to simply dress warm and in layers,” explains Ray Ruggiano, Superintendent, Eastman Cooke. “Layers allow you to peel off clothing as your body temperature rises. Maintaining body temperature is crucial to prevent getting sick.”

Eastman Cooke Senior Project Manager Robert Hancock agrees. He adds, “There are days when you start work at 34 degrees; then the temperature shifts to 45 degrees at lunch, and by quitting time, the temperature has dipped to 30 degrees. Being able to shed and add layers as needed helps you to stay warm without being overheated.”

Dressing in layers is also a great option “when shifting from exterior to interior work,” points out Paul Weiss, Superintendent, Eastman Cooke. He also recommends wearing thermals as a base layer on excessively cold days.

Inserting hand or toe warmers can also be effective, Ray adds, and if possible, try to stay out of the wind. “The wind chill is what will escalate frostbite more rapidly,” he explains.

Ray always encourages his team to warm up in the job office to escape the cold. In addition, he says, “Providing temporary heat through electric heaters or indirect heaters is also helpful.” Eastman Cooke Superintendent Eugene Hermanski recommends “consuming warm drinks to stay hydrated” and assigning workers in pairs to monitor each other’s condition during extreme weather.

Secure Your Jobsite

For Eastman Cooke Superintendent Jonathan Gonzalez, making sure supervision is on site early – before the start of the workday – is essential for optimum safety. “The site super should ensure that entrances and emergency exits are always cleared from obstruction and prevent any falling hazards. Monitoring these locations throughout the day works best to achieve a safe jobsite,” he explains.

Robert stresses the importance of having labor dedicated to maintaining the areas around the site to keep them free of ice and snow. “Daily toolbox talks on days below freezing or during snow events should always include this discussion,” he advises.

Another major factor in securing your jobsite is to make sure it’s structurally sound to withstand tough weather conditions. Phil explains, “The structural integrity of concrete can fail in cold temperatures, so it is imperative to ensure that the area of the work being performed is kept above freezing. This will prevent the concrete from collapsing under heavy snow.” He recommends encapsulating the building and setting up heaters to protect against frigid temperatures.

Eastman Cooke’s supers strongly suggest taking action before the first flakes fall. “Pathways into and around the project should be inspected to be free from any debris prior to a snowfall, so removal of the snow can be done safely. A block of wood or piece of wire shooting out of a snowblower can become a dangerous projectile,” Robert points out.

Jonathan advises throwing salt in the area of construction before a snowfall to prevent accumulation, with “continued monitoring throughout the day to ensure everyone’s safety.”

And keep an eye on that thermometer. “Standing water should always be cleaned up, but especially during freezing conditions before it turns to ice,” Robert says.

In the event where de-icing isn’t possible, “close off areas where ice remains,” advises Michael Guarasci, Project Manager, Eastman Cooke. “And always look to protect the exterior of the building to prevent snow from entering,” he adds.

Ray recommends “tarping in all door and window openings” and organizing the schedule to prioritize closing in the building and insulating before winter even arrives. “This will retain the temperature and heat and foster more favorable conditions at the jobsite.”

When it comes to securing your materials, covering them “with tarps and/or plastic is always good practice any time there is precipitation in the forecast,” Paul points out. If high winds are expected, “all material should be tied down and secured before work finishes for the day,” Jonathan says.

Operating machinery? Be sure to inspect your equipment to keep everything running smoothly. Eugene highlights the importance of using “seasonally appropriate fluids” and making sure “all maintenance is up-to-date.” Paul adds, “Routine maintenance and fluid checks on larger equipment will help to ensure that your equipment works properly day in and day out.”

Jonathan recommends fuel heaters to keep your equipment and jobsite fully functioning. “There should also be supervision in place with the proper COF certificate indicating that the proper safety standards have all been met,” he says.

Know When It’s Time to Stop

“Frigid temperatures, high winds, snow, and ice can make a jobsite very treacherous. Slippery surfaces and dangerous winds can make working on scaffolding and roofs nearly impossible,” Paul points out.

When dealing with any precipitation, Paul says, it’s a good idea “to assess the working conditions throughout the day to determine if conditions are too unsafe to continue working.” In the event of heavy snowfall, a whiteout, or blizzard conditions, stopping exterior work for the day is the best option. “During winter and all-year round, safety is most important,” Paul says.

For Jonathan, closing the site for the day is often the best time to address smaller areas of work, “which helps to avoid setbacks and keep you progressing through the day.”

The commute of your team is another important factor to keep in mind during a severe winter storm. “Even if you can work indoors, the ability for your team to get to and from work safely must be taken into consideration. Safety should always remain your top priority,” Robert says.

For more information on navigating challenging winter weather, visit

https://www.osha.gov/winter-weather.