Construction is tough, dangerous work – even when the weather is cooperating. It becomes all the more hazardous during a harsh winter like this one. Extreme temperatures, bitter winds and fewer daylight hours make for treacherous working conditions.

For construction workers who already face numerous perils on the job, it’s all the more important to make safety a priority during the chilly season ahead.

Beware of the dangers

Extreme cold poses health risks, especially for those working outside all day. It can cause stiff muscles and ligaments, which in turn leads to impaired agility and loss of coordination, making workers more susceptible to falls and other mishaps.

Overexposure to cold can result in “cold stress,” a potentially dangerous condition marked by shivering, blue skin, confusion, disorientation, slow heart rate and blue skin tone. If it goes unnoticed, cold stress can escalate into hypothermia. Frostbite is also a concern when limbs and extremities aren’t properly shielded.

Wear the right gear

Construction workers can reduce the risk of cold-related injuries by using the right gear. Breathable, insulated layers are essential for retaining body heat without overheating. The outer layer should be waterproof and wind-resistant to keep out the cold and stay dry. Sturdy, insulated footwear and helmets are also critical, as is protective eyewear, which should shield from harmful UV rays while preventing dryness from the cold air.

Scale back during dangerous weather conditions

Apart from the cold, winter weather can also pose dangers in the form of snow, sleet, ice and slush. Winter storms can make it challenging for workers to get to and from the jobsite. Icy conditions can result in increased falls. And operating construction vehicles or heavy machinery during inclement weather can be a recipe for disaster.

When Mother Nature sends her worst, it’s wise to scale back and put the work on hold, for the safety of everyone involved.