Winter is well and truly here. It may be the most beautiful time of the year for some people but for tradesmen, field service personnel, hauliers and everyone else who works outdoors for long periods of time, it also brings the highest safety risks. Ice and cold may become real sources of danger when a job involves working outdoors.
Weather challenges at this time of year such as heavy snowfall, damaged power lines in high winds or flooded roads increase the pressure on field service personnel to operate in challenging conditions to keep people safe. Often, their services are time-critical and cannot be delayed until the weather improves.
So, what can be done to successfully cope with working in winter extremes? ZARGES, a specialist in working at height and packaging solutions, shares the following tips to maintain a safe working environment.
1. How to free work vehicles from snow and ice like an expert
Ice on a skating rink is all part of winter fun. But when the weather gets extreme it is important that vehicles are effectively de-iced, and in the harshest conditions, that ice slabs are removed from the roofs of cars and lorries. This is a particular problem for freight lorries that deliver across Europe in extremely cold conditions. All drivers are responsible for the removal of ice from their vehicles. De-icing a vehicle need not be complicated and time-consuming. Indeed, in Europe many motorway services offer lorry drivers special facilities for this purpose. Using special de-icing platforms, drivers can safely and easily climb onto their vehicle's roof to clear it of ice and snow.
2. Avoiding slippery situations on icy or muddy surfaces
Ice and mud can turn even the safest of working spaces into a slippery trap. When carrying out work outdoors, uneven surfaces or frozen ground can be a serious hazard, so it is important to ensure equipment is appropriate for use. For example, ladders should be fitted with non-slip features and with stabilising bars at the base to ensure they are safe on potentially hazardous services.
3. Keep moving to prevent hyperthermia
The human body cools down more quickly when working outdoors in low temperatures. The danger is even greater when a task requires workers to stand for a long period of time. For example, workers may have to stand still on a ladder to install a new light or repair damaged power lines. Working at height and with restricted amounts of movement, they are especially exposed to the cold. When undertaking such tasks, it is important to take care of yourself; taking regular breaks to warm up – ideally with a hot drink – as well as keeping moving as much as possible. When possible, it is better to use a platform system than a ladder in these situations as it provides greater stability and more opportunity to move around.
4. Waterproof equipment
Whether it is hammers and nails, technical measurement instruments or photography gear, expensive and sensitive equipment needs to be taken care of when being transported. An unwelcome slip on an icy surface could result in dropping, and at worst, breaking a piece of important equipment. Highly sensitive devices are very susceptible to cold and moisture. It is therefore recommended to use a waterproof transport case with the right interior fittings to ensure kit is transported safely from A to B without damage – even if it were to get dropped in the snow.
Working outside in winter conditions is never easy, but taking some simple steps and precautions, and using equipment designed for outdoor use, will ensure that those who have to work outside do so in the safest way possible.