When workers must be outside, the weather can present several potential hazards and each season brings its own unique challenges and hazards associated with that season.
There are several hazards that workers face when they are outdoors in adverse weather conditions:
- Lightning strikes
- Slip, Trips, and Falls with muddy work zones
- Losing balance
- Falling objects
- Heat illnesses
With all these hazards, it seems like it's never safe to work outside, but with the proper precautions and safety practices in place, teams can be safe and effectively get the job done without injury. Let's break it down by season:
Keeping Employees Safe in Warmer Months
It's so refreshing when the sun comes back out after a long, cold winter. It's appreciated by outdoor lovers and solar companies alike, but there are several precautions that need to take place during the warmer months to ensure employee safety.
One of the biggest hazards to crews in the summer months is the threat of lightning. Most companies institute a 'lightning stand down' procedure where the jobsite must be shut down if lightning strikes within a certain distance of the job. It will stay shut down until the threat of lightning passes, this will consist of 30 minute intervals at a specific distance, or if it does not pass, then the job site will shut down early for the day. This is the best practice to ensure that employees working outdoors stay safe from lightning threats, especially when working with electricity and working in open area with very little coverage
Along with lightning comes rain. Different types of solar jobs will handle the rain differently. When on the ground, employees can work through a light rain without injury giving the proper PPE and hazard assessments; however, a heavy rain brings slipping hazards due to the wet ground and conditions. A solar jobsite on top of a roof may close to even a slight rain due to the increased chance of falling.
How do we safely work in areas with light rain? Training employees on defensive walking could be a start. But, what does that consist of? Let’s explain:
- Inspect PPE before each use
- Plan your walking route and choose a safe path
- Limit the items you carry
- Visually scan your path and recognize hazards ahead.
- Stay alert and cautious, focus on one task at at time
Additionally, one of the most threatening hazards that comes with the summer weather is heat. Too much exposure to heat can lead to heat illnesses such as; heat stress, heat exhaustion, heat strokes, extreme sunburns, and dehydration. That's why it's so important for safety professionals and supervisors to monitor workers for symptoms of these hazards in extreme heat. Teams are provided with water and are directed to take breaks in the shade frequently.
Heat Mitigation practices can include:
- Hydration methods
- Heat acclimation periods
- Proper diets
- Modify work/rest periods
- Schedule extreme tasks during cooler parts of the day.
- Water intake monitoring
Keeping Employees Safe in Colder Months
Hhazards associated with the cold will depend on the location of where solar companies do business. They will also have varying mitigations that would be put in place to ensure cold stress does not impact the employees.
Here are a few notes for working in the cold:
- Make sure you know the symptoms of cold stress. (red skin, tingling, pain, swelling, numbness.)
- Dress appropriately for the temperature. (Cover exposed skin, wear insulated gloves/boots, and cover your head.)
- Monitor your own physical condition as well as the condition of your coworkers.
- Stay dry and pack extra clothes in case you get wet.
- Take frequent breaks in a warm, dry area.
- Drink warm liquids.
In conclusion, it’s extremely important to us to keep our workers safe. When weather conditions present safety hazards, we respond appropriately to ensure the safety of our workforce.
Our people are important to us and we want them to return to their homes safely each week.