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Construction workers: Take extra precautions in winter

The snowy, blustery winter is just about the only thing that can make a construction worker long for the full heat of summer again.

Working construction in winter is no easy task. If that's your job, pay attention to the following tips:

1. Get the proper gear

Safety gear changes with the season. You need to make sure that you're wearing layered clothing, waterproof liners (if you're working where it's wet, like alongside the road), thick socks, gloves and coverings for your ears, nose and neck.

2. Rotate employees in and out

Your employer should have an area where employees can get out of the cold periodically and warm up. Rotate employees in and out of this area on particularly cold days. Also, keep everyone hydrated with water -- the caffeine in coffee can fool someone into believing he or she is warmer than he or she actually is, exposing him or her to frostbite.

3. Don't start work until the site is checked

Follow whatever safety protocols are in place. Whether it's your supervisor or a safety officer, don't start working until the site has been walked and checked for new hazards -- like ice accumulations and downed power lines.

4. Keep employees together

If an employee has to go out on a remote site, don't let him or her go alone -- even if the job can be done by one person. During winter weather, it is too easy for a fall to happen or a driver can get suddenly disoriented due to the snow and get lost while alone. Having company can keep a driver focused, more alert and ultimately safer.

5. Watch the weather

If the weather is cold, that's an obstacle that can be dealt with through extra clothing. If the temperature is dangerously low, however, no one should be on the site. Similarly, if there's snow or sleet coming down, it's too dangerous to keep working. The likelihood of fall will only increase as equipment, stairs and ladders get slicker.

Ultimately, worker safety on a construction site is everyone's responsibility. However, employees who are injured should explore their legal options carefully as they recover.

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