Many people assume that construction has to stop in winter, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. Even though construction work can be more challenging in winter, many construction workers have learned to work their way around this period. Now, what about in sub-zero conditions — do construction workers work in the snow?
Construction workers do work in the snow if the job calls for it. Not all construction workers have to work in the snow, as some work in areas that rarely snow or don’t snow at all. Of course, construction workers must refrain from work for safety reasons if there’s a snowstorm.
The rest of this article will explore several important things:
- How winter affects a construction project
- How construction workers work in the snow
- The dangers that snowy weather have on construction workers
- What construction workers can do to stay safe when working in harsh winter conditions
How Winter Affects a Construction Project
Anyone who lives in a cold climate country would understand how brutal winter can sometimes be. Some regions don’t have to deal with snow, while some have become accustomed to temperatures below zero. While some of us find no problem working in winter, some others, such as construction workers, may find it very challenging.
You might think that construction workers don’t work in winter, but many do. Some of them also work in the snow. Not all construction projects are equal, so while small construction projects might stop in winter, some major ones continue.
Constructions in winter/in the snow are not common due to several reasons:
- Safety reasons
- Construction limitations
- Difficult planning
It is riskier to work in winter; working in the snow is even riskier. Depending on the location, winter can cause surfaces to become very wet and slippery, thus more dangerous. Severe weather conditions also mean that the chances of construction workers falling and getting injured are higher.
Also, the cold is another potential hazard. Sure, workers can protect themselves with layers of warm clothes. However, some days are colder than others, which means that there’s always a chance of a construction worker catching hypothermia.
The threat of working in construction during winter or in the snow is the amount of sweat that construction workers produce while working. Sweat can be dangerous because it reduces one’s body temperature. All construction workers must pay attention to their bodies and know how to spot hypothermia signs.
Then, there’s the wind, which can be dangerous, especially in winter, because it usually is stronger. A strong wind could easily make a construction worker off guard; therefore, companies must always check the weather forecast for any potential high wind.
Working in winter is difficult, especially when snow is concerned. Construction workers typically deal with concrete, which is the second most used material after water. The problem is, concrete cannot be poured into frozen soil.
If poured into frozen soil, the concrete will not be strong, and thus, will create cracks later on — bad for construction. Also, curing for the concrete takes a lot longer in the cold. Of course, the worst thing about doing concrete work in winter is that the result will not be good, which is not what companies want to give to their customers.
It’s more challenging to plan out a construction project in winter because the weather can be pretty unpredictable. A sudden weather change can easily cost a construction project more money as the project will get delayed due to the weather.
Since construction is a high-risk job, construction workers must have insurance to protect themselves. In the US, OSHA (The Occupational Safety Health Administration) ensures that workers work in safe working conditions by training and educating companies on keeping their employees safe. A construction worker working as an employee can be protected under the worker’s compensation benefits.
However, independent contractors typically do not get protected by the worker’s compensation insurance. So independent contractors must insure themselves in case accidents happen at the workplace. Many companies are aware of this, so they usually prefer to work with independent contractors instead of employees to avoid paying extra employee benefits.
How Do Construction Workers Work in the Snow?
If the weather is not too bad, construction work can continue, even when there is snow.
Construction workers work many types of construction jobs that don’t necessarily involve concrete and can be done even in snowy conditions. Some of the most popular construction jobs today are:
- Equipment operator
- Solar installer
Construction jobs that deal with concrete can still be done in winter with the help of insulated blankets, anti-freezing concrete elements, or thaw machines. However, these solutions can add more costs to the construction project. That said, most construction contractors will always try to work in warmer times.
Construction builders do worry about heavy rain and snow, and ice in winter. However, the biggest concern that construction builders have is not the rain, snow, or ice — it’s the mud and water. Snow will eventually melt, and when it does, it causes water to flow and pick up sediment.
Plumbers can work in winter or when it’s snowing. A plumber’s job is typically done indoors, but sometimes their job calls for outdoor plumbing. Even when it’s snowing, a plumber can do their job.
It is common for a construction project to keep running in icy or snowy weather. Usually, construction managers ensure that most concrete jobs are completed before the colder months arrive. Even when the temperatures plummet, a construction projection can continue because many other construction jobs can be done, such as electric applications and window installations.
What Are the Dangers of Working in the Snow?
Working in winter can be challenging due to the cold.
The dangers of working in the snow include a chance of catching hypothermia whenever you’re working outside in low temperatures. That’s because when we sweat, our sweat lowers our body temperature. Ice can also increase the danger of slipping and falling.
Snow is beautiful, but it is sometimes accompanied by snowstorms, which can be dangerous, especially for construction workers. Working in harsh conditions is also very stressful because one can easily get trapped in a snowstorm or skidded on ice. Also, on days with continuous snowing, snow can quickly pile up and delay construction.
Tips for Construction Workers Working in the Snow
The cold can be merciless, so staying warm, especially in harsh conditions, is vital to survival and productivity. People working outside in the cold should dress adequately, preferably in layers. It will help to wear merino wool as a base layer.
Other tips for staying warm and safe include:
- Staying hydrated always.
- Wear appropriate clothing, preferably layers of breathable clothing, heavy boots, gloves, etc.
- Remove as much snow and ice as possible by spreading sand or salt on icy surfaces to allow the ice to chip off.
- Make sure all vehicles are in good condition to avoid getting stuck in bad winter conditions.
- Workers must always have contacts to call in an emergency, like if they get stranded in their vehicles.
- Check the worksite every day to ensure that it is safe from too much ice, falling trees, broken power lines, etc.
Construction workers do work in the snow if necessary. While concrete construction is not common in winter, some construction companies have managed their way around the challenges that such projects have. Many other types of construction jobs don’t involve concrete, allowing workers to work even when it snows.
Working in winter can be dangerous; working in the snow can be even more dangerous. The major threats that snowy weather poses to construction workers are hypothermia and snowstorms. Construction workers must insure themselves and maintain the highest safety measures at work.