We didn’t get snow for Christmas, but temperatures have plummeted this week, with the cold and snow predicted to last. When working outdoors the effects of the weather in the UK can potentially have a serious impact on your health. A cold environment forces the body to work harder to maintain its temperature. Cold air, water and snow all draw heat from the body. Trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia are health hazards if you are not properly protected from the elements when working outside in cold weather. If the risks have not been considered or properly managed the impact may be immediate or could occur over a longer time period. Winter weather increases the risk of falls due to ice, and wet slippery surfaces on scaffolding, ladders, and work platforms.
Some simple precautions can help:
The Personal Protective Equipment at work regulations 1992 stipulate that protective equipment must be provided to employees for free. The equipment should be fit for purpose, fit correctly, and be properly maintained. Also, note that equipment must be CE-marked and look out for expiry dates on items such as hard hats
Drink warm fluids such as soup or hot drinks
Introduce more frequent rest breaks
Consider delaying the work – can it be undertaken when the severe weather has eased off? without compromising on safety?
Working with Concrete and Masonry
The LABC has written some technical requirements for working with concrete and masonry in cold weather
Ready Mixed Concrete – should not drop below 5°C. Ensure that ‘immature’ concrete is prevented from freezing before sufficient strength has been achieved.
Site Mixed Concrete – Site mixing of concrete is acceptable in temperatures as low as 2°C, provided the ground is not frozen and the concrete is protected during curing.
Curing of concrete – Low temperatures can lead to longer curing periods, during which it is important to prevent freezing by adequate protection. Heating may be required in extreme cases
Protection of Masonry
Brickwork should be kept clean and protected from rainfall, snow, and contamination. Any new walls or masonry construction requires protection from frost where temperatures are expected to drop below acceptable working temperatures. This protection can be achieved with polythene or hessian, in very lower temperatures insulation board or even heating may be required.
Avoid mortar smearing or splashing as the work proceeds.
Staining of brickwork often comes from excessive wetting or saturation of recently built brickwork.
During breaks in construction, take particular care to keep bricks and brickwork in progress covered with waterproof sheeting.
Bricklaying should normally stop when the temperature is 3° Celsius and falling and not begin again until the temperature reaches 3° Celsius and rising.
If overnight frost is likely before the mortar within newly constructed brickwork has fully set, it should be protected with an insulating layer of hessian underneath the polythene. This would normally give some protection to the mortar joints from overnight frost.
Read more on how to protect masonry from Frost and Rain: