Working outdoors on an aerial lift can be a challenging and often risky business. Even with today’s fall prevention and arrest safety equipment, accidents and fatalities can occur. That’s why operator safety should always be the #1 priority on an aerial lift job site. Above-ground work presents enough hazards in favorable weather conditions. During the winter, the list of risk factors greatly increases.
Be Aware Of These Winter Work Hazards
The first hazard to contend with is the cold temperatures. Even when dressed for cold weather, freezing temperatures can impact the ability to work safely. Hands can still get cold while wearing gloves. Strong winds can increase the chill factor, making the air seem colder than it is. Working long shifts in cold weather can cause operators to lose focus. Any way you look at it, cold weather does not enhance safety.
Snow and ice can make working on an aerial lift more dangerous. They make the platform slippery. They can cause vision problems by getting in eyes or fogging up protective goggles. They can also get into tools and equipment, causing them to short out or malfunction.
High winds pose a serious threat by causing workers to lose their balance and the lift to become unstable. If winds are strong enough, the lift can actually tip over. This threat gets magnified when the lift is positioned on uneven or unstable ground. Adding snow and ice to the situation only makes the wind problem worse. That’s why experts recommend not using aerial lifts when winds push beyond 20 miles per hour.
Tips For Working Safer in the Winter
Work doesn’t come to a halt just because of harsh winter weather. Construction and building maintenance still need to get done. Windows still need to be washed. Power lines still need to be repaired or replaced. Fortunately, companies can employ many tactics to keep workers safe from harm and equipment safe from damage.
Dress for the cold.
This may seem like common sense. But people often underestimate the effect cold temperatures can have on outdoor work. To show up on the job site properly attired, lift operators should don at least three layers of loose fitting clothes. A knit mask helps protect the face and mouth from snow and biting winds. Waterproof, insulated boots are essential for keeping feet warm and dry. Wearing a hat that covers the ears can prevent heat loss through the head. (Extra important for bald guys!)
Dressing properly does more than enhance safety. Workers stay mentally sharper. Productivity improves because people work faster and better when they’re warm. Dressing warmly can also reduce absenteeism. By itself, cold doesn’t cause sickness. But it can weaken the immune system, making people more susceptible to colds and the flu.
Practice above-ground safety techniques.
Even tasks as simple as removing snow at height can be dangerous. Complex jobs involving equipment, machinery or hard to reach areas take on a new level of risk. To keep lift operators safe, make sure they are thoroughly trained for wintry conditions. See that all guardrails are in good condition and lift workers don’t stand on them. Most of all, insist workers use a body harness and lanyard when on the lift.
Why is training for working in cold weather so important? Because safety sometimes gets overlooked in the desire to finish the job and get out of the cold. If workers haven’t updated their training in a long time they may forget some of it. And you can’t put a price on safety. The time invested in training could save someone’s life.
Take steps to prevent slips and falls.
Slips and falls are a leading cause of accidents and injuries in cold weather. They can often be prevented with a few simple steps. Have workers wear proper footwear with good tread. Train people to take short steps and walk at a slower pace. Clear snow and ice from walkways. Spread deicer as soon as possible after a winter snow. Safety measures should always be proactive rather than reactive. Taking these steps sends an important message to employees about your commitment to safety.
Review power line safety.
Working on power lines is risky enough during good weather. Doing it in winter weather demands a higher level of focus and caution. Warn drivers by setting up proper traffic zones by using cones, signs, lights, and barrels. Whenever possible, de-energize power cables. If this can’t be done, conduct a hazard analysis to determine whether work and weather conditions are safe. Always use proper tools and personal protective equipment while on the job. When possible, stay at least 10 feet away from energized power lines.
The first step in winter safety involves training and certifying everyone who works on aerial lifts. As the specialists in OSHA-compliant aerial lift training, AerialliftCertification.com makes it easy to bring your employees up to speed on safety procedures during cold winter weather. Our training is fast, thorough and affordable. We can even provide certification cards on the same day as the training.