Winter is a dangerous season for electricians. The cold weather can cause hypothermia or other cold stress disorders that could lead to permanent disability or even death.
To stay safe this winter, make sure you always wear insulated tools and personal protective gear like gloves and safety glasses when working with electricity. And remember: if it gets too risky out there, don’t hesitate to take a break from your job until it becomes safer for you to continue on the project.
Keep reading to learn more about winter electrical safety to keep you safe.
Dress for the weather.
One of the most important things you can do to stay safe in winter is to dress for the weather. That means wearing clothes and shoes that are appropriate for the temperature and the conditions.
If it’s cold outside, wear warm clothes, like a coat, a hat, and gloves. If it’s wet or icy, wear boots that will keep your feet dry and traction on slippery surfaces. And always dress in layers so that you can adjust your clothing as the temperature changes.
Wear the right shoes.
Work boots are designed for work and walking through snow and ice. Wearing your old sneakers or casual winter boots could lead to slips and falls that put you in danger – especially if they don’t have good traction on the soles.
Wear work boots and make sure they have rubber soles that provide good traction and wear wool or synthetic socks that will keep your feet warm.
Be aware of the weather.
No matter what kind of work you’re doing on a winter job site, paying attention to the weather is critical. Snow, sleet, hail, ice, wind – all these conditions can affect a job site.
If you’re walking around a site, watch for slippery surfaces. If it’s windy, keep an eye on things like long metal conduits or scaffolding that could get blown over in high winds.
And plan accordingly for the weather conditions – if it’s going to be 20 degrees and sunny, you can probably do some outdoor work safely. If it’s 10 degrees with a wind chill of -20, well, maybe let the next guy in line go outside instead.
Be aware of what you’re doing at all times.
With so many dangers out in the winter weather, you need to stay focused on your work at all times. Keep an eye on your surroundings and always know the electrical hazards.
That means knowing where power lines are running and ensuring no one gets too close to them – even if it’s just a temporary situation.
Pay attention to the ground around you.
Snow and ice make many things look different – including electrical equipment and job site hazards. And this is especially true in the dark when it’s hard to see things hidden by the snow.
When walking around a job site, always be aware of what’s below your feet. If you step on a piece of metal that’s covered in ice, you could easily slip and fall.
And if you slip and land on something that’s hidden by the snow, it could be an electrical hazard.
So pay attention, take your time, and don’t try to rush through a job site in winter conditions.
Always be careful of ice.
It might seem obvious – ice is slippery, so be careful when you walk on it. But in the winter, ice can be hidden by the snow, and it can form on surfaces that you wouldn’t expect.
When you’re walking around a job site, always be aware of the possibility of ice. Take your time, walk slowly, and watch where you’re going. If you start to slip, don’t try to save yourself by grabbing onto something. Instead, fall in a controlled way, so you don’t get hurt.
Watch out for water.
Working near water is always dangerous, but it’s especially risky in the winter.
If you’re working on a job site with an irrigation system, make sure it’s turned off before the water pipes freeze.
You should also look out for condensation or ice dams near your work – these can let water leak through and cause electrical problems.
When working around lakes and ponds, keep away from the edges. And if you’re working near any kind of water, always be aware of the possibility of electrocution.
Be careful with extension cords.
Extension cords are a valuable tool on a job site, but they can also be dangerous.
Make sure that you only use extension cords that are rated for the amperage of the electrical devices you’re plugging into them. Don’t overload extension cords, and never plug them into an outlet that’s already being used by another appliance.
When you’re not using them, coil up the cords and keep them out of the way.
Use caution around electricity.
This one should go without saying, but it’s especially important during the winter months.
When working with or around electricity, always be aware of the potential for danger. Be especially careful when working near power lines, and avoid contact with anything that might be energized.
Watch out for power lines.
Power lines often cross outdoor job sites. If you’re working on an elevated structure, such as a ladder or scaffolding, power lines could get in your way.
If you can’t avoid the power line, plan for it. For example, if you have to climb up a pole and work on overhead wires, make sure somebody else is keeping watch for you.
And if the power line crosses your work area, plan on using insulated equipment that won’t create any sparks.
Clear the area before you work.
Before you work on your electrical system, make sure that other people in the area are safe and clear of the danger zones.
If someone has to be close by for a job that you’re doing, plan out how they can stay safe while still doing their job.
Make sure your tools are properly insulated.
Many accidents happen because somebody touches something that’s energized with their bare hands.
That’s why it’s essential always to use insulated tools when you’re working with electricity. If you don’t have insulated tools, always be sure to use rubber gloves and other personal protective equipment.
Wear personal protective gear.
Personal protective gear like gloves and safety glasses isn’t just good for keeping you warm – it also keeps you safe from electrical hazards in winter job sites.
Ensure you’re wearing gloves and safety glasses whenever you’re working with electricity, and take extra precautions in bad weather. The cold can make it hard to work safely, so take your time and be careful.
Learn the symptoms of hypothermia and other types of cold stress disorders.
Working in the cold can be uncomfortable and dangerous, especially when you’re not dressed for it. If you get too cold, you might start to suffer from hypothermia or other types of cold stress disorders.
If you feel suddenly tired or clumsy, or if your hands stop working well (which makes holding tools difficult), you might be experiencing the early stages of hypothermia.
If this happens, get out of the cold and warm up as soon as possible. You can also call for help if you think you’re in danger.
Cold weather is no fun for anyone, but electricians are at a higher risk of hypothermia because their jobs require them to work outside in all kinds of winter conditions.
They should monitor each other closely and take appropriate measures if they see any signs that an employee might have weakened immunity or high blood pressure due to working too long with cold temperatures.
- Uncontrollable shivering
- Confusion, loss of coordination, and/or slurred speech
- Slowed breathing and/or heartbeat
Immersion Foot (Trench Foot)
In addition to hypothermia, employees should also recognize the early symptoms of immersion foot or trench foot.
This condition occurs when feet are wet and cold for long periods, including pain, itching, or tingling, as well as numbness, cramps, reddened skin blisters, among others, in what can be an uncomfortable experience while on-site!
Frostbite is a severe injury that occurs when the freezing temperature damages skin and tissue. Employees must not ignore these symptoms, in themselves or their coworkers, as it can lead to permanent disability or even death.
Victims often experience:
- At first, cold skin and a prickling feeling.
- Skin that looks red, white, bluish-white, grayish-yellow, purplish, brown, or ashen, depending on the severity of the condition and usual skin color
- Hard or waxy-looking skin
- Clumsiness due to joint and muscle stiffness
- Blistering after rewarming, in severe cases
The important thing is that these conditions can all be monitored and controlled by you or your employer.
However, you cannot control them if the precautions are not taken first, so it’s essential to recognize what is at risk for you at any construction site involving electricity.
If you feel unsafe, don’t hesitate to take a break from work until it’s safer for you to continue on the project.
Your health is one of the most important things you have – don’t risk it.
Understand the dangers of working with electricity during winter.
Winter can be brutal for electrical contractors and those who work outdoors. If you’re not careful, the cold weather might cause hypothermia or other types of cold stress disorders that could lead to permanent disability or even death.
To stay safe this winter, make sure you always wear insulated tools and personal protective gear like gloves and safety glasses when working with electricity.
And remember: if it gets too risky out there, don’t hesitate to take a break from your job until it’s safer for you to continue on the project.
We hope that you’ll take these electrical safety tips and apply them to your job site.
If you’re in the Baton Rouge, LA area and need someone who can provide electrical services in the cold weather safely, we’re here for you.
Give us a call today or view our commercial services page to learn what we can do for you.