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.
Self Dumping Bins save workers from harm, while improving job-site productivity. Check out this video to learn how.
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
Toll free: 1-877-852-2192
Local: (604) 854-3218
Fax: (604) 854-5716