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How Winter Weather Can Hamper Productivity In Hazardous Working Zones

Written By: Tom Mcshane on December 23, 2013 No Comment

CE HFM Glove 09 v2As temperatures start to plummet, work on construction and industrial sites can become more hazardous and dangerous by several orders of magnitude – whether it’s frozen equipment and supplies, bitter cold hampering your workers or the weather making even the simplest tasks a potential accident nightmare.

Safety always needs to be taken seriously in a construction or industrial environment (the potential for serious or fatal accidents without any consideration for safety is high), and this is even more true during the winter. The sub-zero temperatures and adverse weather can impact a number of different areas of construction sites and industrial environments, and this guest post aims to look at some of the broader, more significant areas and how they can be tackled.

1. Worker Productivity & Working Times Reduced

A study carried out by Cornell University found that, in an office environment, working errors increased by 15% at a reduction of less than 5° Celsius in the working temperature. While this study was not specifically examining the construction industry, it does indicate the negative effect that cooler temperatures can have on working productivity. When dealing with an industry that involves a great deal of outdoor working, this is a near certainty – at least, without appropriate measures taken to avoid this.

You wouldn’t tackle a new type of task without the appropriate equipment (safety or otherwise), and the same should be said for bitter winter temperatures. Thermal clothing, insulated gloves and on-site portable heaters can all help keep your workers sufficiently warm to prevent rock bottom productivity, as well as any injuries or illnesses.

2. Effects On Equipment & Piping Can Halt Operations

Just as that little water pipe on the outside wall of a home can easily freeze when the temperature drops below zero, then it’s no surprise that the same can be said for similar pipework in construction zones – the only difference being that they’re larger pipes, more vital and the consequences can be more serious. This can be particularly true in hazardous zones, such as Zones 1 and 2 (relating to gas) and 21 and 22 (relating to dust).

Frozen pipes means that working can often need to grind to a halt – and any burst pipes can have a more dramatic impact. The best way to tackle this is with thermal ‘heat jackets’ for piping, which provide consistent and safe heat (generated electronically) to the pipe – this can thaw it out safely, ensuring production can continue and accidents are avoided. ATEX approved products, such as the Flexiheat jackets from SA Equipment, ensure safety even in hazardous zones.

3. Working At Height Becomes More Dangerous

Ice, snow and the general cold can all make the simple tasks of working at height incredibly hazardous – the potential for slipping or falling is higher, and snow can often obscure hazards or be a potential falling hazard itself.

Avoiding working at heights is usually recommended, but cannot always be practical due to project expectations. The most practical solution, in reality, is finding the most appropriate and safest way to complete any tasks at height. Rather than working on scaffolding, or climbing ladders, powered lifting platforms can be a great way to tackle any work at height and, while expensive, do remove the need for physical climbing which is the main risk in this type of work in winter. Many companies lease and hire this kind of equipment, which can be a lot more cost effective compared with buying it outright – particularly if it only gets significant usage at this time of year.

This guest post was written by Tom McShane – industrial blogger and writer for SA Equipment, who provide a range of heating products suitable for hazardous working environments.

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