As temperatures drop, Stuart Nicholson, roof systems director at Marley, gives advice on how contractors can keep themselves and their workforce safe this winter.
This year has seen contractors facing unprecedented challenges and the construction sector has worked hard to implement COVID secure procedures to ensure sites can continue to operate safely. As we head into the colder months, protecting the workforce from COVID remains the priority, but at the same time, the inherent risks of working in winter must not be overlooked.
In the winter, strong winds, freezing cold temperatures, snow, ice, and lots of rain can create major hazards on building sites, particularly for those working at height. As well as the risk of slips and falls, prolonged exposure to the cold can cause construction workers to suffer from more colds, bronchitis, asthma, painful joints, chill blains, fatigue and even hypothermia.
That’s why it is so important for contractors to review their winter working policies now and make sure the usual measures they take to mitigate winter risk, are also compliant with the latest COVID site operating procedures. For example, in winter there are likely to be additional demands on welfare facilities, which could affect social distancing and there is a greater use of PPE. Self-isolation requirements are also likely to put greater pressure on workforces, alongside the regular cold and flu season.
So how should builders and roofers prepare for working this winter?
- Review policies
Check that your winter safety policy is compatible with the latest COVID site operating procedures from the CLC www.constructionleadershipcouncil.co.uk and update it if necessary. You can also refer to the NFRC guidance notes for specific information for roofers www.nfrc.co.uk/COVID
- Clear guidance
As we head into the cold and flu season, make sure there is clear guidance about COVID symptoms and when employees are expected to self-isolate.
- Review welfare facilities to ensure there is enough capacity
In winter, there is often greater pressure on welfare facilities, and they can become more crowded. Construction sites need to ensure there is adequate space for workers to socially distance in communal areas, so this may require the provision of more covered areas, or a review of existing rota systems.
- Winter hazards and PPE
Make sure workers are trained on winter hazards and ensure they have the appropriate PPE for the weather conditions. Re-usable PPE should be thoroughly cleaned after use and not shared between workers. Single-use PPE should be disposed of so it cannot be reused.
- Monitor the weather forecast to anticipate and prepare for poor weather conditions
Carry out a risk assessment every day to check that it is safe to work and that conditions haven’t changed. Pay particular attention to working at height platforms and do not work on roofs in icy conditions – this is a requirement of the Working at Height Regulations 2005.
“It is critical that contractors remain vigilant over the winter season, to help slow the spread of Covid-19 and protect their workforce. So far, construction sites have been able to remain open, despite a large part of the country being in lockdown. It is therefore critical we continue to act responsibly on-site, following the Site Operating Procedures and NFRC’s freely available Covid-19 Guidance Notes;
Gary Walpole, Safety, Health and Environment Office at NFRC
For further information, visit www.marley.co.uk/wintercampaign