Winter Roofing Work – Keeping Construction Sites Safe in the Cold Weather
Winter is well on its way here in the UK and this means that extra precautions are necessary on construction sites across the land because the cold weather brings with it some seasonal hazards. When it comes to roofing work, the risks are very real, especially when it’s wet and slippery underfoot or when there’s the added danger of thin layers of ice. Today we’re going to take a look at some of the hazards that are brought by the cold weather and what can be done to minimise the risks involved.
Low temperatures affect health and safety in a number of different ways. One danger is that it’s difficult to concentrate when feeling cold which may result in errors of judgement which may lead to serious accidents, especially when working at height. This is exacerbated by the fact that when it’s cold, workers may be tempted to take shortcuts to avoid the cold, which may mean not strictly following site procedures and rules that are in place to reduce the risk of accidents.
The cold weather brings with it other risks too – for example there are likely to be additional slipping hazards onsite due to ice or snow on working platforms or ladders. Plant and machinery may malfunction due to the cold and ice and the safety of mechanised lifting operations can be affected by unstable loads. Slippery loads and surface may make manual handling more risky too.
The Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (the Management Regulations) require an assessment of work related risks which must consider the effect of low temperatures and control measures must be instigated to deal with any risks highlighted by the assessment. Principal contractors have a duty to deal with site hazards and there is a legal obligation to:
- Plan, manage and monitor the construction phase in liaison with the contractor.
- Make sure that suitable welfare facilities are available throughout the construction phase
- Check the competence of all workers on site and make sure they undergo site inductions and have received the requisite training for the work being undertaken.
- Carry out a risk assessment every day to check that it is safe to work and that conditions have not changed. Working at height platforms and walkways should be examined closely and roofs should not be worked on during icy weather.
When it comes to working outdoors, Regulation 43 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM) specifically addresses the issue of temperature:
Every place of work outdoors shall, where necessary to ensure the health and safety of persons at work there, be so arranged that, so far as is reasonably practicable and having regard to the purpose for which that place is used and any protective clothing or work equipment provided for the use of any person at work there, it provides protection from adverse weather.
It’s the responsibility of the principal contractor right from the start of any project to implement Regulation 43. Although there is no exact definition of what is considered a reasonable temperature for working outdoors, the principal contractor is obliged to consider the circumstances of an individual projects and take action necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of everybody on site.