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Industry Updates

How Cold Weather Can Impact Construction Teams

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Summer might be the best time to start a construction project, but deadlines don’t always cooperate — leaving you working through the winter to get things done. How can cold weather impact construction teams, and how can you prevent these impacts from slowing things down?

Contending With Snowfall

During the winter months, snowfall is going to be one of your biggest challenges on the job site. It looks pretty, but it compromises traction and makes it more difficult to move around. If you get a warm afternoon, the snow can melt and refreeze as ice, creating even more slip and fall hazards.

The easiest way to deal with ice is to keep it from forming in the first place. Remove snow from high-traffic areas or treat them with road salt. Ensure that everyone wears appropriate footwear to provide extra traction. You might even want to invest in ice grippers or crampons for individuals who might find themselves walking on slippery surfaces.

Be Ready for Severe Weather

Winter can often bring with it severe weather, from freezes to blizzards and everything in between. These events can blow up without warning, leaving you scrambling to batten down the hatches and get ready for the storm. Instead of acting reactively and responding to severe weather events, you need to have a plan in place to help you handle the harsh winter weather.

“Instead of acting reactively and responding to severe weather events, you need to have a plan in place to help you handle the harsh winter weather.”

Be sure to have a plan in place for everything that might happen, including the things you think are unlikely. Just because your site has never flooded doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. All you have to do is look at how Houston after Hurricane Harvey made landfall for proof of that.

Schedule Around Cold Snaps

There are plenty of aspects of the construction process that might be negatively affected in cold weather. Concrete, for example, loses up to 50% of its strength if it’s exposed to freezing temperatures in the first 24 hours after you pour it. Cold weather can also prevent paint or drywall mud from drying and can damage the mortar holding bricks together.

Pay close attention to the weather in your area and plan any cold-impacted tasks around expected cold snaps. It sounds tedious, but it can make an enormous difference. Instead of pouring concrete the night before a freeze, wait until things warm up a little bit and ensure you don’t have to remove your faulty concrete and do the work over again at your own expense.

Cold weather events can damage construction equipment, too, making it both inefficient and unsafe. Make a habit of securing these investments at the start and end of each workday. Check over each piece of equipment to top off fuel levels overnight and prevent damaging glycerin buildup. Then, run through a safety checklist before operating machinery again in the morning.

Protect Your Team From the Cold

Cold weather isn’t just damaging to your job site. It can also be dangerous for your team. Cold-related injuries and illnesses are common in the construction industry, ranging from cold stress to frostbite, which could take your employees off the job. 

When it comes down to it, the cold is dangerous. A cold snap in January of 2019 took the lives of 22 individuals. Spending long hours out in these freezing temperatures can be detrimental to your team’s health.

Encourage everyone to wear proper clothing, including layers that can be added or removed as needed. Gloves, hats and other types of cold weather gear are also essential to keep extremities from becoming vulnerable to frostbite. Provide a warm trailer or office where your team can take frequent breaks, and offer warm drinks like coffee, tea or hot cocoa to keep everyone toasty while they’re inside.

Stay Warm Working in Construction This Winter

Whether you’re working on residential or commercial projects, the most important thing to remember is to keep your team warm and safe this winter. Be ready for severe weather, pay close attention to the forecasts and do your best to keep everyone out of the cold or protected as best you can.

Holly Welles is a writer specializing in construction and real estate. Learn more about her writing via her website, The Estate Update, or connect on LinkedIn for more information. 

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