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It’s frigid in many areas of the country, but home building continues even in less-than-desirable conditions. From shoveling snow at a project to clearing snow on under-construction roofs, the dangers of a construction site are amplified by frosty weather.

Before arriving to a jobsite, the first hazard in wintertime construction is driving there. By promoting safe driving behavior and ensuring employees inspect vehicle systems before driving, most crashes can be avoided.

OSHA recommends employees inspect the brakes, cooling system, electrical system, engine, exhaust system, tires, oil, and visibility systems before operating a vehicle in the snow. And an emergency kit can be an added level of security and safety.

Brittney Roehrich, CEO of the North Dakota Association of Builders, says, “We encourage members to make sure work vehicles, machinery, and tools are prepared and inspected for winter weather. This includes having an emergency kit that includes a flashlight.”

Other items in addition to a flashlight with extra batteries that could keep workers safe in the wintertime are a cellphone or two-way radio; windshield ice scraper; snow brush; shovel; tow chain; traction aids like sand or cat litter; emergency flares; jumper cables; snacks; water; road maps; and blankets and a change of clothes.

Within the work zone, injuries and fatalities can happen when drivers may slide or lose control of vehicle or machinery while on snow or ice-covered roads. Setting up work zones to create barriers between workers and vehicles is an added task in the wintertime that could prevent injury.

While walking can be just as much of a hazard in icy conditions, Roehrich says removing snow and ice from worksites and adding sand or salt to walkways is necessary. The NAHB recommends snow removal before work is started and to chip away large patches of ice. Taking short steps and walking at a slower pace can also prevent slips, trips, and falls, OSHA cites.

Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Maine executive officer Heather Raisanen echoes the NAHB recommendation and adds that proper gear is imperative. From insulated and water-resistant boots with rubber treads to heavy coats and gloves, she adds, “We encourage members and their workers to dress in layers with a base layer of moisture-wicking fabrics to better handle temperature fluctuations.”

Proper gear and equipment are also needed for the removal of rooftop snow—especially on homes under construction. “Based on the findings of OSHA investigations, falls cause the most worker fatalities and injuries during rooftop snow removal. Workers may fall off roof edges, through skylights, and from ladders and aerial lifts,” an OSHA Hazard Alert reads.

The goal for employers is for workers to use snow removal methods that do not involve going on roofs when possible. This can be done with the use of ladders or aerial lifts with personal protective equipment including personal fall arrest systems and non-slip safety boots, and ensuring that workers are trained on how to properly use equipment.

Raisanen and Roehrich both also encourage members and their employees to work outside for shorter periods of time and schedule work in the warmest part of the day, if possible. Taking breaks in warm, dry areas, and drinking warm liquids can also prevent cold stress.

Cold stress happens when wetness or dampness (even from sweat) causes heat loss from the body, driving down the skin temperature and eventually the internal body temperature. Serious cold-related illnesses and injuries can occur including trench foot, frostbite, hypothermia, and chilblains.

To find more on the topic, visit OSHA's Winter Weather webpage or NAHB's 4 Steps to Keep Your Workers Safe in Cold Weather.