Many Massachusetts and Boston area construction projects require work to be performed outdoors during our region’s harsh winter months. Construction workers are required to work in brutal winter weather conditions, such as extreme cold, snow and ice which can create dangerous working conditions. Because injuries caused by winter weather conditions on construction sites can be costly to both construction companies and construction workers alike, proper safety measures must be followed in order to prevent these injuries.
Although injured workers are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, these benefits are limited and often times do not adequately compensate an injured worker and their family. In situations where the negligence of a third party, or a construction company other than the injured workers’ employer (such as the general contractor, trade contractor, property owner or manufacturer/seller of a defective product) has caused an injury, the injured construction worker and their family may be able to bring a third party negligence claim against the offending party. The costs associated with a slip and fall injury caused by winter weather conditions to an employer and their insurer can be astronomical, depending on the severity of the injury and the impact it has had on the injured workers’ life. When a serious construction site accident happens, the injured worker and their family are often times forced to file a lawsuit in order to receive fair and full compensation. These lawsuits can take years before they are resolved, putting injured workers and their families in extreme financial hardship.
Because construction site accidents can have a profound impact on injured workers and their families, and construction companies and their insurers, construction workers and construction companies alike should implement and follow some basic safety rules which can help reduce the possibility of these injures from occurring on a construction site during the winter months. The following are some basic winter weather construction site safety rules, that if followed, can help prevent injuries from occurring:
1. In order to prevent injuries from occurring due to winter weather conditions, employers must take action in advance. Pro-action prevents injuries, while reaction allows them to happen and will only allow an employer to find out why an injury occurred after the fact, when it is too late to prevent it.
2. Always keep a close eye on the forecast so appropriate safety measures can be taken in advance of winter weather possibly causing unsafe working conditions.
3. Inspect the job site for unsafe conditions that could be caused by winter weather before construction workers begin work each and every day at the project. Employers should pay particularly close attention to areas of the job site where they know that construction workers will be present, such as walkways, parking lots, bathrooms, and stairs.
4. Ice should never be allowed on areas of the job site where employers can expect construction workers will be walking. If the ice cannot be removed prior to the start of construction work each day, it must be treated with sand or salt.
For Construction Workers:
1. Dress appropriately. This means wearing boots with adequate tread, and wearing enough layers to keep you warm in order to prevent frost bite.
2. If you observe a dangerous condition, report it to the appropriate person, department or company as soon as possible. Often times the appropriate person to report an unsafe condition to is the project’s general contractor, who is responsible for job site safety. Although the general contractor should make sure that the site is safe before work begins every morning, sometimes dangerous conditions may arise after work has begun and therefore workers should report unsafe conditions as soon as they become aware of them.
3. If for some reason you cannot avoid an unsafe condition, take every reasonable precaution in order to prevent harm. If you must walk across ice or snow because there are no alternative routes or it cannot be removed, you should walk as carefully as possible and pay attention to the ground below you.