Working outdoors on an aerial lift can be a challenging and often risky business. The job becomes even riskier when working in winter weather. 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, which is why you should consider these winter safety tips for employees.
Be Aware Of These Cold Weather Hazards
The first hazard to contend with is the cold temperatures. Even when dressed for working in winter 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.
Follow These Winter Safety Tips for Employees
Work doesn’t come to a halt just because of harsh winter weather. Construction and building maintenance still need to be 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. Pass these working in winter weather safety tips for employees onto your crew.
✓ Dress for the Cold
This may seem like common sense. But people often underestimate the effect cold weather hazards 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!) If your job requires a hard hat, you can add liners to contain the heat with a nose guard and mesh mouth.
Hands are especially susceptible to the cold when they are exposed. Gloves are necessary, but they must be flexible enough to allow the worker to handle tools while providing protection from the cold. Waterproof gloves are essential to prevent any contact with water from freezing their hands.
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 working in winter weather. 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.
Consider the issue of thawing and refreezing for a jobsite. Varying temperatures can increase risk as snow thaws and then refreezes as ice. Certain types of roof materials are even slippery in winter weather.
Inspect the worksite before each shift is possible, especially after overnight. Look for fallen power lines or surfaces that have become slippery overnight. Managers and supervisors must determine what changes have occurred and whether it is safe to work and what new steps or procedures should be followed with the change in conditions.
✓ Take Steps to Prevent Slips and Falls
Slips and falls are a leading cause of accidents and injuries and one of the cold weather hazards at work. 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.
✓ Monitor Weather Reports
Weather can change rapidly with deteriorating conditions. Working in winter conditions becomes hazardous if not impossible. One of the most important winter safety tips for employees is to be aware of changing weather conditions. Consider the following conditions and how you will respond with your workers:
– Blizzard warning
– Wind chill advisory
– Wind chill warning
– Winter storm warning
– Winter storm watch
– Winter weather advisory
Some of these conditions may be issued a day or longer in advance, allowing you time to determine how to plan for your project. However, weather can turn at a moment’s notice, becoming more dangerous than expected.
✓ Review Power Line Safety
Working on power lines is risky enough during good weather. Working in winter weather demands an even 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.
✓ Prioritize Effective Heat Ventilation
When working in winter conditions, it’s tempting to use generators to stay warm. While this can be an effective option for chilly warehouses, the strategy doesn’t come without risks. If you’re using a non-electric heater indoors, be sure that there is proper ventilation to allow gasses like carbon monoxide to escape. Carbon monoxide is also known as the Silent Killer, as the colorless, odorless gas claims about 1,000 lives in the United States each year.
Stay safe by installing a carbon monoxide detector. Never run a generator indoors, and if you opt to use a kerosene heater, be sure to open a window. If you want a truly safe way to keep warm during the winter months, try using air activated chemical hand warmers. While they might not be quite as effective as a heater, they’re much a safer option that’ll keep your hands toasty all day.
Get Aerial Lift Certification with ALC!
The first step in safely working in winter weather 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.
With this online option, we can get all your workers certified in about an hour with no scheduling training off site or renting a space to conduct training. We offer a self-paced course as well as a train the trainer course to allow one person to train all workers on aerial lift training. Materials are interactive to ensure everyone learns with three training options – guided training, self-paced, and group training in both English and Spanish.