winterWith freezing temperatures construction work can be more hazardous than normal. Many construction projects take place in areas highly exposed to winter weather such as windfarms. When the body is unable to warm itself, cold related stress may result. Four factors contribute to cold stress: cold air temperatures, high velocity air movement, dampness of the air and contact with cold water or surfaces. A cold environment forces the body to work harder to maintain its temperature. Cold air, water, and snow all draw heat from the body. Wind chill is the combination of air temperature and wind speed.  Risk Assessments need to be reviewed as extreme low temperatures greatly change and usually increase the risks associated with most external construction work.



The following areas of work are particularly adversely affected by extreme cold conditions:

  • Work at Height – work at height platforms, roof work, etc. will all become more hazardous if ice or snow are on them. The risks of falls from heights are increased as the risk of slips, etc. is greatly increased.
  • Slips, Trips & Falls –the risk of these are greatly increased due to icy conditions. Walkways should be cleared of ice and snow with regular gritting/ salting.
  • Construction plant operation:
  • Caution must be exercised when accessing or egressing from construction plant as access steps and hand hold surfaces may be covered in ice.
  • Wheel grip could be compromised and control of vehicles could be lost
  • Visibility may be impacted for machine drivers
  • Welfare Facilities – arrangements must be in place to provide adequate welfare facilities, especially an area where workers can go to warm up, change/dry clothes and get hot beverages.
  • Falling objects – snow and ice falling from height is a hazard to watch out for.


10 Essentials for You to Include When Risk Assessing and Planning for Construction Work  in Extreme Cold Temperatures.

  1. Wearing the proper clothes / PPE

Wearing appropriate clothes for cold weather usually involves using three or more layers of clothing. Provide suitable gloves. Waterproof outer clothing is essential. Ensure Hi Vis clothing is maintained as the outside layer.

  1. Drinking plenty of fluids

Warm, sweet beverages. Thirst is suppressed in a cold environment and dehydration may occur when fluid intake is reduced.

  1. Increasing caloric intake

Essential when working in cold environments. Workers in cold environments who wear heavy, protective clothing expend more heat and so require 10-15 percent more calories.

  1. Providing, If required, a work warm-up schedule

Should be used to provide periodic times for warm-up breaks. Additional breaks should be provided as the wind velocity increases and/or the temperature drops.

  1. Avoiding the cold

Get out of the cold if you can if you are becoming exhausted or immobilised. These conditions can accelerate the effects of cold weather.

  1. Providing engineering controls

Use heaters in areas where practical. Shield work areas from winds and drafts. Use insulating material on equipment handles, especially metal handles, etc.

  1. Selecting the warmest hours of the day, where possible

Make use of the warmest time of the day when braving the cold. Minimise activities that reduce circulation.

  1. Educating employees

Employees should be advised of the symptoms of cold-related stresses: heavy shivering, uncomfortable coldness, severe fatigue, drowsiness and/or euphoria.

  1. Using the buddy system

Work in pairs when working in extreme weather conditions so partners can monitor one another and obtain help quickly in an emergency

  1. Ensuring Adequate Lighting

Ensure adequate general and task lighting is provided and is suitable for the size of the workplace and task being carried out.

Above adapted from information provided on the HSA website during the extreme temperature period experienced in 2010