Guest Post: Surviving your first week on a construction site in the middle of winter

by Matt Hornsby

If you happen to land a job on a construction site in the middle of winter, don’t worry you will survive. The wind may be bracing and the rain might pour heavily, but with a decent pair of thermals and a trustworthy snow shovel for emergencies you will be able to weather any storm – believe me, I know.

Last winter was one of the coldest on record and what did I do? Well, I decide to head out to work in the great outdoors. While there were times I wished to be snuggly in a warm office sending emails from a Mac computer, on the whole I survived the freezing months no problem at all.

So, if you are a little anxious about the salt spreaders running out of salt or of turning into a snowman mid-shift, put your mind at rest with these survival tips:

1.       Wear appropriate clothing

When working outdoors it is essential to wear appropriate clothing to help you feel as comfortable (and warm) as possible throughout your shift. It is a really good idea to wear layers, as manual labour can make you hot and you don’t want to be stuck in a heavy old jacket all day. Try to wear a thin t-shirt or vest which clings to your skin as this will keep out a breeze and perhaps invest in a few cheap and cheerful woolly jumpers.

Gloves are essential as a lot of construction work exposes your hands to harsh weather conditions and you don’t want the hands of a 90-year-old before turning 35. A hat to cover your ears is necessary and a scarf will protect your neck and face from icy winds.

2.       Don decent footwear

Strong, sturdy safety footwear should be worn at all times when out on a construction site. Boots with ankle support and steel toe caps are often provided and will protect your feet not only from the cold but from falling objects. The last thing you want is to spend the day with wet feet, so make sure you always leave your boots by a radiator to thoroughly dry and put on a pair of thick, clean and dry socks every day – without fail. If you try to cut corners and head off to work with damp feet you run the risk of getting blisters and foot sores which will surely make your working life miserable.

3.       Drink well

In the morning, why not warm you tonsils with a warm brew in a portable thermal flask. Start your day off the right way and take the time to defrost your fingers before your chores begin. While drinking tea and coffee is always nice, you must also remember to drink water regularly throughout the day. Dehydration can occur in winter as in summer (particularly if you are doing a lot of physical work) so always make sure you have a bottle of water nearby.

4.       Take regular breaks

Take the time to pop indoors or take shelter in your car or van whenever you possibly can. Try to get the most difficult work over in the warmest part of the day and if the weather takes a turn for the worse make sure you protect yourself as much as possible. If heavy snow falls and grit spreaders are on the roads, think carefully about how long you should leave it before you head home. Ice tends to form around night fall, so perhaps try and get home before it is dark.

5.       Stay aware

It may sound simple, but one of the most important ways to make it through the winter months without incident is to stay aware. Keep an eye on your workmates and take action if someone can’t stop shivering, is constantly stumbling or becomes severally fatigued. Hypothermia can be very dangerous, so it is important to call for emergency help if you think it is necessary.

While winters of late have been pretty darn chilly to say the least, if you dress sensibly and manage your working life appropriately you should be just fine. So, get on out there and start raking in the pennies and don’t forget to throw some biscuits into the car – for energy, of course.

 [Note from Rourke: Timely information as cold weather is beginning to creep in across the country and many Americans are beginning to take on employment they have never done before – like construction.]


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1 thought on “Guest Post: Surviving your first week on a construction site in the middle of winter”

  1. I worked in the outdoors for many years and you have some good advice there. I would work in -30 below temperatures some days and the one thing I learned is to stay away from any boots that had steel in them. They make boots with other options that meet OSHA requirements. Steel toed boots have been known to cause frostbite on toes and I will never own a pair for this reason. Stay warm!


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