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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
Top Takeaway: Heat stress and the risk of falling are both serious hazards when working at height in the summer. Combined they can be deadly, so stay cool and plan ahead to keep everyone safe this season.
Summer is synonymous with construction. Its consistent weather and sunny days make working outside significantly easier and safer than harsher seasons. The heat, however, is not always your friend.
Heat stress is a major problem on jobsites throughout the warmer months and can complicate already hazardous jobs, such as working at height. Here are five rules that must be followed if your site involves working at height this summer.
1. Watch the weather.
Summer weather is typically reliable. It’s hot, maybe humid, and has significantly less precipitation to worry about. While this reduces the risk of slipping, summer brings its own hazards, like heat stress and lightning storms. Keep an eye on the weather and make sure your site is prepared for anything the season can throw at you.
2. Cover up.
Heat stress occurs when your body warms up faster than it can cool down. Although it feels nice to lose the layers, exposing your skin to the sunlight increases the rate at which your body heats up. Instead of going sleeveless, wear light, loose clothing with long sleeves and legs, UV-blocking sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the worst of the sun’s rays.
3. Stay hydrated.
Staying hydrated is the most important factor in preventing heat-related illness. Keep a water bottle close at hand throughout the day, refilling it every time you empty it. Drinking water will cool you down and keep you alert, and refilling your bottle will give you regular opportunities to step out of the sun.
4. Use appropriate fall protection and prevention.
Drier weather reduces the likelihood of slipping, but it’s still crucial to utilize the appropriate fall prevention and protection equipment for the height you’re at (WorkSafeBC has a simple guide here). Take time to lay out a fall prevention and rescue plan, making sure everyone on site is familiar with it. When you’re not wearing your PPE, store it in a cool, dry place to prevent any damage from the sun or heat.
5. Don’t wait to get help.
Getting dizzy or passing out while still at height could put yourself and others in extreme danger as they try to rescue you. Heatstroke can progress quickly, so if you start to feel symptoms such as a headache, dizziness, or you’ve stopped sweating, get back to the ground as quickly and safely as possible to get treatment.
Worried about how heat stress will affect your jobsite? Learn more about what it is and how to prevent it in our Summer Jobsite Safety article.
High temperatures are the greatest challenge for jobsites in the summer. Make sure everyone on site is hydrated, eating well, and taking time to cool down to prevent heat stress.
Summer is here, and with it comes long days and hot weather. Warmer temperatures can be exciting but are also hazardous for those who work outside or in the heat. Heat stress is a serious threat on a jobsite, so check out these best practices to stay safe this season.
1. Have a plan.
The best way to keep your jobsite running safely and smoothly this summer is to be prepared. Consider supplying additional cooling PPE for your crew, such as fans or cold packs, and organize working hours to avoid the hottest part of the day.
2. Stay hydrated and wear sunscreen.
These are the two simplest ways to avoid heat illnesses and protect your health in the long term. Drink enough water (most doctors recommend eight glasses a day) and continuously apply sunscreen to protect yourself from the heat and UV radiation.
3. Respect the sun, love the shade.
Exposure to sunlight is inevitable in the summer, but it should be avoided when possible. Create shaded areas with good air-flow to prevent sunburn and heat-related illnesses.
4. Dress right.
Sleeveless may seem the way to go on a burning day, but exposed skin means a higher risk of sunburn and sunstroke, and could even lead to skin cancer in the long term. Instead of losing layers, wear loose-fitting clothing made of breathable material, a hat with a brim, and sunglasses that block UV rays. These steps will guard your health and keep you cooler in the long run.
5. Eat right.
It’s natural to crave sugary drinks and icy treats in the summer heat but these foods will sap your energy as you digest them and leave you with a sugar crash. Choose healthy, energizing foods, like fresh fruit or low-sugar granola bars and stick to water as your drink of choice.
6. Allow for acclimatization.
If an employee is new or has been off work for a while, their bodies will need time to adjust to the summer’s heat. Start them with reduced time spent in high temperatures and increase it slowly. An acclimatized body will be able to better handle heat exposure and is less likely to suffer from heat stress.
7. Stay cool.
It’s important to allow your body to cool down after spending extensive time in the heat. Prepare air-conditioned break rooms and encourage your crew to spend time indoors after work to prevent the effects of heat stress.
8. Plan for the next day.
Your habits outside of work will also affect your ability to operate in the heat. Avoid overindulging on coffee or alcohol after-hours, as these will continue to have dehydrating effects on your body the next day.
9. Watch for symptoms.
Heat stress can progress quickly once it has begun and, if left untreated, can require time off work to recover from. Watch out for dizziness, nausea, headaches, cramps, elevated pulse, and if sweating stops. If you notice any of these symptoms, take a break in a cool area and drink lots of water. If a person becomes unresponsive, call 9-1-1 immediately.
10. Educate your crew.
While it’s important to pay attention to the health of your crew, it’s impossible to monitor everyone onsite at all times. Make sure your staff are trained to recognize the signs of heat stress and treat it immediately.
11. Know when to call it.
Some days are just too hot to work. It may be frustrating to end a workday early, but it will be more productive in the long run to preserve the health of your employees. There’s no legal cut off for when it’s too hot to work, so monitor the heat and your crew’s condition to make the wisest choice.
For more information on heat stress and how to prevent it, read WorkSafeBC’s free guide here.
If you’re going to work with tower cranes, you better know your hand signals. Clear communication is essential for staying safe on the job site.
A crane operator should always use a signaler, and they should communicate according to the established code of signals. Hand signals are preferred and commonly used. In certain cases, a signaler may be required by law, especially if the operator’s view of the intended path of travel is obstructed in any way.
Here are six essential rules for crane operators and signalers:
- Only a qualified person can be a signaler. They must be trained to give hand signals to a crane operator.
- Only one designated signaler should be assigned for each crane operation. If one signaler ever needs to be replaced by another, the one in charge should wear a clearly visible badge of authority. There should never be two active signalers.
- The crane signaler must be in clear view of the crane operator.
- The crane signaler must have a clear view of the load.
- The crane operator and signaler must both keep other persons outside of the crane operating area and never direct a load over a person.
- A crane operator must obey STOP signals no matter who gives it.
Importantly, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that anyone designated as a signal person must meet certain qualifications and be evaluated by a qualified individual. These regulations, in addition to a commitment to standardized signals, have helped reshape the landscape of crane safety, with crane-related deaths falling to their lowest recorded level in 2017 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Below, we have a visual guide to basic crane hand signals, including a few signals that are particular to telescopic, crawler and tower cranes. In any case, crane hand signals are an essential part of operating a crane, whether using a small carry deck crane or a larger all-terrain crane. These basic signals are even used with the largest cranes in the world. Some crane rentals also include operators and a signal person in the cost.
Download our new “Tower Crane Hand Signals” chart here: Bigfoot Hand Signals
Wind is a major hazard when working at height, even on days that seem calm. Windy days can make working at height dangerous for everyone on the job-site. Follow these best practices to ensure a safe job-site, no matter the weather.
#1: Keep Objects and Tools Secure
Be prepared by keeping objects and tools that are not in use well secured. Strong gusts can cause you to lose balance, blow tools and materials off of platforms, and weaken structures, so store materials and tools securely when not in use.
#2: 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.
#3: Don’t Underestimate Gusts
Even on calm days, gusts of wind are still hazardous, as they can come out of nowhere and travel up to two times faster than the average windspeed. Again, use a wind meter to monitor conditions, as you may need to quit working at height if gusts are too strong.
#4: 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.
#5: 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 manner.
#6: 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.
#7: Wear a Harness
No matter how uncomfortable or cumbersome it is, always wear a harness at heights of 1.5 meters and above, as 30% of fatal falls happen at heights of two meters or lower, and 50% happen at three meters or less.
#8: 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 carrying it away.
#9: 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 recommend this guide: Wilkins Safety Group’s Beaufort Scale Safety Guide, which details the precautions that should be taken at various wind speeds. It’s an extremely helpful tool in creating a safe plan.
#10: Always 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.
Working at Height in the Spring: 10 Ways to Stay Safe
Written by: Jen Adams
Key Takeaway: Be prepared for unpredictable spring weather by keeping the job-site clean,
planning for the forecasted weather, using the right PPE, and taking thorough
Temperatures may be rising, but spring brings its own set of risks (and borrows some from
winter) that need to be taken seriously. Keep these best practices in mind while you’re working
at height this season to stay safe while enjoying the breeze.
1. Always check the weather.
The only thing consistent about spring weather is that it changes consistently. Be prepared for
the heat or cold by checking the weather ahead of time and plan accordingly, and always be
prepared for sudden changes that could occur.
2. Complete thorough safety checks on all large equipment.
With inconsistent weather comes loose earth, mud that gets everywhere, and a higher risk
of rust when equipment is repeatedly soaked and left to dry. Always make sure to check
equipment and machinery before using it and stay up to date on safety regulations by
checking WorkSafeBC.com and using tools like Bigfoot’s Crane Academy.
3. Secure your materials.
High winds can pick up quickly in the spring and are often stronger the higher you work, as the
site is usually more exposed. Make sure the materials you are working with are secure at all
times to avoid injuries or falls from loose materials or objects blowing around.
4. Avoid using power tools in rainy or wet conditions.
Water is an excellent conductor of electricity. By using power tools in the rain or wet after a
rain, you not only run the risk of damaging your tools, but risk electric shock or electrocution if
any wires become exposed while you work. Play it safe and use hand tools where possible or
set up cover over your work area to keep the area dry.
5. Be wary of thunder and lightning storms.
Spring storms are especially dangerous to those working at heights, as lightning is drawn to
metal and tall structures. Monitor the weather report, be aware of your environment, and if the
weather looks dicey, don’t risk working in a storm.
6. Give yourself some traction.
Slipping is always a risk when working on the job-site but becomes even more so when working at
height on wet surfaces. Wear boots and gloves that fit well (make sure they are tight enough that
they can’t slip off, but not so tight as to cut off circulation) and have a lot of traction and grip to
7. Always wear appropriate fall PPE, even if working at a lower height.
Most fall-related accidents occur at 30 ft. or less because people view lower heights as less
dangerous, but it takes very little height for a fall to cause injury or even death. Height should be
treated seriously and with caution in any season, but mud and rain make it especially important
to utilize fall PPE in the spring.
8. Let your fall PPE dry naturally before its next use.
Drying equipment with an electric dryer or heater can weaken or melt the material, ruining the
equipment and putting its user at risk. Blot your equipment with towels and hang it up to dry
completely on its own whenever it gets wet, and always check it carefully before each use.
9. Dress warmly enough, and cool enough.
Spring weather may feel warm compared to winter, but its unpredictable nature means that
temperatures can drop to hazardous temperatures, especially when coupled with consistent
cold rains. Dress in layers to ensure you can always keep up with whatever cold or heat the day
throws at you.
10. Train staff to identify weather-based illnesses.
Heat and cold stress occur when the body either warms up faster than it can cool (resulting in
heat exhaustion or sunstroke) or cools down faster than it can warm up (resulting in frostbite
or hypothermia). While they happen more often in summer and winter, they can also strike in
temperatures that don’t seem very extreme. People working at heights can also be at a higher
risk as they tend to be more exposed to the elements. Make sure there are staff on site who are
trained to recognize and treat signs of heat and cold illnesses.
Click here to download: Working at Height in the Spring: 10 Ways to Stay Safe
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Bigfoot Crane Company Inc.
2170 Carpenter Street
Abbotsford, BC V2T 6B4