Spring Brings New Safety Hazards to Construction

by Melanie Baravik
April 24, 2018

Spring is finally here, and though winter weather isn’t over for everyone, it’s time to start preparing for what the change in season brings. Spring means fluctuating temperatures, “April showers,” and new hazards on construction jobsites. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind through unpredictable spring weather.

Changing temperatures

Spring mornings can be deceptively cool, and it can warm up significantly by the early afternoon. When you’re heading out the door, heavy layers might be comfortable — but by noon, you’re sweating through all those layers. Stay hydrated and wear lighter layers you can shed as the day warms up.

On the other hand, spring weather is notoriously unpredictable and it’s just as likely you’ll be working in chilly rain, wind or even snow (depending on which part of the country you’re in). Rain during the spring can be cold and snow tends to be wet and heavy, so you may need to wear warmer, water-resistant personal protective equipment (PPE). Be sure all gear is reflective and otherwise in line with OSHA’s PPE standards.

Rain and mud create hazards

As temperatures rise, frozen dirt can quickly turn to mud — and combined with spring rains and melting snow, that makes for a dangerous combination. Equipment and work vehicles can get stuck or lose traction on loose, wet ground. Though it’s pretty much impossible to keep machines clean, don’t let mud build up, especially in the undercarriage. Clean your machines regularly to keep them running at their best for as long as possible.

Mud and rain pose a risk to workers as well as machines, presenting similar slip-and-fall hazards as in winter. Be careful walking on wet surfaces, especially when using ladders or working at height. Wear water- and slip-resistant shoes and the proper PPE for the job. Falls are the leading cause of death and serious injury in the construction industry, and four out of ten of OSHA’s most common citations directly involve fall protection standards. Injuries and fatalities on the jobsite are preventable, which is why safety should be your top priority. Though rain might make you want to work faster, slow down and be cautious to prevent accidents.

Be sure workers on the ground stay clear of moving equipment and ensure operators have maximum visibility. On cloudy, rainy days, that might mean using extra sources of lighting. The PPE you provide for employees likely includes safety glasses or goggles, which many people on-site wear every day. But rain and humidity can fog them up and make it hard to see, so look for options with anti-fog lenses or use anti-fog sprays or wipes. On the opposite end of the weather spectrum, eyes need to be protected from long-term effects of UV exposure that include blindness and cataracts. Keep workers safe by equipping them with safety glasses that block UVA and UVB rays.

Electric shock risks

Construction projects frequently involve electrical work, making electrical safety a topic you can revisit year-round. In spring, rain, lightning and puddles of standing water left behind can lead to a greater risk of electric shock. High winds can take down power lines — stay clear of downed live electrical wires and don’t touch them, especially if you’re wet or standing in water. Live wires should only be handled by properly trained workers wearing PPE.

There’s lots you can do to reduce the risk of electric shock. Implement a solid lockout/tagout procedure and conduct extensive training on the topic. If thunder and lightning begins, keep everyone clear of tall metal structures. Post warning signs in especially dangerous, high-voltage areas. And if it’s raining, put down the power tools.

Don’t skip the sunscreen

Warmer weather means not only increased sun exposure in general, but also more damaging sun exposure. That’s because the UV Index increases during the summer months, putting you at higher risk for sunburn, especially if you have fair skin. Between more outdoor jobs and recreation time spent in the sun off the jobsite, you’ll need to double up on sunscreen.

The sun’s rays are more damaging in the summer, but that doesn’t mean they’re harmless when it’s cold out. You should protect exposed skin with sunscreen year-round and reapply if you sweat, if you get wet or as needed throughout the day. Snow reflects UV rays and can make them just as harmful as in the summer. Sunscreen isn’t just for the beach — protect yourself from sunburn and skin cancer by wearing it daily.

A majority of safety rules apply all year long, like wearing adequate PPE and protecting employees from falls on the jobsite. But it’s important to be aware of the different hazards each season brings with it or exacerbates so you can take preventative measures. What are some other safety hazards spring brings to your jobsites?

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