Temperatures are due to plummet this week, with snow predicted over many parts of the country. When working in cold weather the effects 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. Health hazards include trench foot, frostbite, and hypothermia if you are not properly protected from the elements.
If the risks are not properly managed these impacts may be immediate or could occur over a longer time period. Of course cold weather also of course increases the risk of falls due to ice, wet slippery surfaces on scaffolding, ladders, and work platforms.
Some simple precautions can help:
- The Personal Protective Equipment at work regulations 1992 stipulates 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:
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