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How Cold Weather Affects Construction Workers

March 31, 2020

Construction is a dangerous profession. In New York State, construction workers make up only 4% of jobs but 20% of all occupational deaths.

Workers face many hazards, including heaving machinery and working at great heights. But the cold weather can also endanger construction worker safety. In the winter months, construction workers face a variety of hazards that could lead to injury, permanent impairment, or even death. Below, we highlight some of the dangers associated with doing construction work in cold weather.

Building Collapse

Concrete does not dry as well in cold weather. In fact, the concrete is more likely to freeze before it dries, which will weaken it permanently. As a result, a building could collapse as construction workers are trying to work on it.

Frostbite or Hypothermia

Prolonged exposure to cold weather can cause serious injuries to workers. One problem is frostbite, which can lead to the amputation of fingers where the skin has frozen and nerves have been damaged. Though not fatal, frostbite could make it impossible for a worker to continue in the construction field.

Hypothermia is another problem when temperatures fall very low, or when workers do not have the necessary protective equipment. With hypothermia, body heat is lost faster than it can be replaced. Ultimately, a worker can lose consciousness due to the cold and suffer serious injuries, such as falls from a great height. If left untreated, hypothermia can lead to death.

Mistakes in Judgment

Extreme cold can have a disorientating effect on people. A cold construction worker could make a mistake that they otherwise wouldn’t if they were sufficiently warm. For example, the worker could use the wrong piece of machinery and suffer an injury or fail to adequately secure a ladder.

Slip and Falls

Surfaces can become slick in cold weather. Rainwater can freeze when temperatures drop immediately after a storm. Consequently, workers can slip and fall, either on the same level or from a height. Slip and falls can also be caused by snow, sleet, or ice.

Motor Vehicle Accidents

Slick road conditions also lead to crashes as large vehicles skid and fail to stop. There are many large vehicles operating at a construction job site, from forklifts to cement trucks. Any one of these vehicles could go out of control and crash into a construction worker.

Adequate Protection for Construction Workers in the Cold

Though cold weather is unavoidable, employers still retain responsibility for trying to mitigate some of the worst effects of cold weather. For example, job sites should adequately clear snow and try to melt ice. They should also provide break areas where workers can go to warm up. Hot beverages and heaters should be provided.

Employers should also make sure workers have adequate personal protection equipment, such as insulated gloves and waterproof winter jackets. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration recommends that workers have at least three layers on to protect from cold winds.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Brooklyn Construction Accident Attorney Today

If you were injured in a construction accident and believe cold weather was to blame, contact Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman today. Our team can review the circumstances and identify the best path for receiving compensation. Call 212-285-3300 or fill out our contact form.


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