Working safely at heights in cold weather

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As the weather gets colder, there are things you need to consider when working safely at heights. We’ll take you through the risks involved, how to mitigate them, and how to operate your machinery safely. Our simple tips are easy to implement for improved safety on your worksite. 


The risks of working at heights in winter

Slippery surfaces

Slippery surfaces, either on the ground or at heights, can be perilous. Working in a cold environment often makes surfaces slippery with snow, rain, hail, and ice. You should create a safe work method statement (SWMS) before beginning any new project, especially in slippery conditions.  

Working safely with slippery surfaces: 

When working at heights, skylights and unprotected edges should be addressed with skylight mesh or proper scaffolding rails. Ensure workers know the roof layout, including potential obstructions, fall dangers, and other notable features. Workers should wear boots with treads to grip slippery surfaces. Workers should use harnesses and anchor points on roofs or elevated working platforms (EWPs) to prevent falls. 


Obscured visibility

Obscured vision is a real issue when people are working at heights in cold weather. Wind can sweep dust, debris, and even snow or hail into workers’ eyes. They could trip over obstacles such as equipment or tools while at heights or fall off a platform if they can’t see where they’re going. Fog is another factor that can decrease visibility. Overhead dangers such as electricity lines must also be considered in case of electrocution. 

Working safely at heights with low visibility:

One way to work safely at heights, even with low visibility, is to ensure workers wear personal protective equipment (PPE), like goggles. Stay informed of weather developments during winter months to predict times to delay work. But if visibility is abysmal, put the work on pause until the weather improves. 


Health issues

When you’re working in a cold environment, various risks to personnel arise. Sometimes, workers can get too cold, leading to severe medical conditions such as hypothermia and frostbite. 

It might be surprising that dehydration is another risk while working at heights in the cold. If workers aren’t drinking water regularly, they can become dehydrated. This is especially true when personnel work up a sweat doing manual activities – the perspiration releases water from the body. 

Looking after personnel when working in the cold: 

Keep an eye on the weather and the welfare of your workers. Provide them with information about the symptoms of hypothermia. If the weather is too harsh for safe work, cancel work that day. Ensure your workers rug up and that you give them waterproof PPE, including warm gloves, to prevent frostbite. 


How to operate equipment in cold weather

Clear ice and snow

It’s essential to operate on solid ground when using EWP equipment. Snow can hide obstacles that can rip tyres or the undercarriage of machines, and ice can be slippery for machines to run on. So clear all ice and snow from the operations area. 


Warm up the engine

When a machine goes from freezing to its average running temperature, it can shock the system. Prevent this and allow the various parts of the machine to warm up slowly by turning on the engine and gradually warming it up before you use it. 


Trust All Star to keep all equipment ready for winter 

At All Star Access Hire, we keep our machines safely stored away from the elements and well-maintained so that you get EWP equipment that is prepared to do the job at hand. With All Star, there’s less downtime because our fleet is young and because we offer a 24/7 emergency breakdown service.


Call us on (03) 9397 3555 to learn more about access hire for winter months.