The Federation of Master Builders

Getting through the cold weather on site

Published date: 12 January 2017

We’ve had a pretty cold start to 2017 so far. We’ve had the ‘Thundersnow’, the fog that cancelled hundreds of flights and plenty of weather warnings. So what is the protocol on site when it comes to the cold weather? FMB Insurance has put together some handy tips for when the weather takes a turn.

Assess and prevent

Prevention is better than cure! The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that staff and employers firstly identify the outdoor areas most likely to be affected by ice and snow, such as pedestrian walk ways, doorways and car parks, as well as paying particular attention to any fire exits and high-traffic paths. If the ice and snowy conditions are yet to arrive, spreading grit can help prevent any ice forming and snow from settling. It’s best to do this before the evening and again in the morning – and always prepare ahead by buying it before the wintry conditions arrive!

If the snow and ice has already descended, conducting a risk assessment before commencing work will ensure that the site is safe to work on and will also help the team safely identify the best working practises for the conditions. For more information, check HSE advice here:

It’s also a good time to double check that your public and employers liability insurance is up to date. Whilst you’ve taken all of the necessary precautions, accidents can still happen, especially given the cold weather. FMB Insurance can help you with your liability requirements.

As cold as ice

Another aspect to consider is the temperature itself. HSE recommends that most workrooms should be kept at 16 degrees celsius minimum or 13 degrees celsius if the work involves strenuous effort. However, it can be difficult to determine this if the majority of your work is outside, or in an unfinished new build. It’s good practice to ensure that you and your team have regular breaks to grab hot drinks or to warm up in a heated area. Mild cold exposure can cause slower reaction times, as well as a range of other symptoms such as hypothermia, asthma attacks and stiff joints, so it may beneficial for the health of you and your workforce to postpone working.  

Dress for the occasion

It isn’t too difficult to figure out that cold weather means wrapping up warm, but it’s important that employees and employers ensure that they are wearing the right clothing for the job (as well as the correct PPE). Plenty of layers, as well as hats and gloves all help keep workers warm and comfortable, but it’s also worth noting that the clothing must be suitable for the job, too. Bulky gloves paired with jobs that require fine, small movements can be dangerous, so it may be worth considering if the particular job can be completed at a later date.

As always, common sense is necessary in all extreme conditions. Make sure you keep a close eye on the weather forecast for any changes – we all know how quickly it can change!

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