Working on an aerial lift is tough enough during good weather. But, climate changes, intense storms, and extreme weather have made these jobs much harder. As climate change reshapes our planet, lift workers must now learn how to work safely in extreme temperatures.
OSHA Cold Weather Guidelines
OSHA states that businesses must provide worksites that are free of known hazards. This includes cold weather hazards that can cause death or injury.
Cold weather puts aerial lift operators at risk of hypothermia, frostbite, and other health problems, according to OSHA. As such, businesses must do their part to protect aerial lift workers against cold weather dangers.
OSHA points out that workers must be able to identify the warning signs of health issues caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, such as:
- ✓ Shivering
- ✓ Slurred speech
- ✓ Careless movement
Educating workers about OSHA cold weather guidelines is important. With proper training, workers can learn about a wide range of cold weather dangers and prepare accordingly.
OSHA Cold Weather Safety
In addition, OSHA provides several tips to help businesses protect aerial lift workers against cold weather health dangers, such as:
- • Encourage workers to wear hats, gloves, and other warm clothing and accessories
- • Schedule workers to complete tasks outdoors during the warmest part of the day
- • Let employees work in pairs to limit each worker’s time outdoors
- • Schedule maintenance and repair jobs for warm months
- • Schedule jobs for warm parts of the day
- • Limit exposure to extremely cold temperatures
- • Provide warm areas where workers can take breaks throughout the day
- • Offer coffee, tea, and other warm liquids to workers
Keep employees up to date about cold weather dangers as well. In doing so, workers will be well-equipped to watch for cold weather dangers and protect themselves and others against them.
Unique Weather Considerations and Precautions for Aerial Lift Operators
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OSHA Cold Weather Regulations for Clothing
OSHA recommends workers wear the following clothing and accessories in cold temperatures:
- – At least three layers of loose clothing:
- √ An inner layer to keep moisture away from the body
- √ A middle layer to provide insulation even when wet
- √ An outer layer to keep out wind and rain
- – A knit mask to cover face and mouth (if needed)
- – A hat to cover the ears
- – Insulated gloves
- – Insulated and waterproof boots
Safety is paramount, particularly when it comes to working in cold temperatures. Workers should wear sufficient clothing and accessories to ensure they can protect their hands, feet, and other body parts against prolonged exposure to frigid weather. They should also notify their manager any time they feel cold temperatures are affecting their ability to work safely.
OSHA Rain Regulations
There are no specific guidelines from OSHA regarding letting aerial lift workers complete tasks in the rain. However, employers are always responsible for maintaining safe, healthy work environments. If a worker believes a rainy work environment is unsafe, he or she has the right to refuse dangerous work.
When it comes to rain or any other inclement weather conditions, it is always better to err on the side of caution. Harsh weather conditions should not hamper a worker’s ability to safely complete tasks outdoors. Otherwise, if workers are forced to work in poor weather conditions, they could put themselves or others at risk of accidents or injuries.
OSHA Hot Weather Safety
Hot weather can be problematic, and businesses must plan for letting their employees work outdoors in warm temperatures.
OSHA encourages businesses to use the “heat index” to protect outdoor workers in hot weather. The index accounts for humidity and temperature and how they affect the safety of outdoor workers. By studying this index, an employer can take appropriate measures to safeguard its outdoor workers against heat-related illnesses.
How Inclement Weather Conditions Can Put Aerial Lift Workers in Danger
Aerial lifts can be risky in high winds or weather that impairs workers’ vision. Once in the air, aerial and scissor lifts can become unstable and tip over. There are limits to the type of weather aerial lifts can work in. The #1 goal is always to keep workers away from harm.
Severe weather can make it unsafe for workers to work or travel. At those times, some employers grant workers paid “climate leave”. This is a good practice for outdoor workers who deal with heavy equipment and fall hazards. According to OSHA cold weather guidelines, workers can’t be forced to man their jobs in unsafe weather. To do so goes against OSHA cold weather regulations. It also puts workers’ lives at risk.
Tips to Protect Aerial Lift Workers in Severe Weather Conditions
Here are tips to help aerial lift workers stay safe in various severe weather conditions:
How to protect against:
✓ Strong winds. Aerial lift workers should use extreme caution when winds get too severe. Or they should stop working until the winds die down.
✓ Slippery surfaces. Snow, sleet, rain, ice – you name it and Mother Nature can create slippery ground in no time. Always ensure your base is stable before going up in a lift.
✓ Hot and sticky temperatures. Don’t operate an aerial lift when it is 90 degrees or hotter. Extreme temps can cause loss of focus on the job. That spells doom when you’re up in an aerial lift! Heat exhaustion is a major concern for lift workers in hot, humid weather. When the temps start to climb, keep a water supply within reach.
✓ Severe weather patterns. Storms, hurricanes, and other severe weather systems are major hazards for lift workers. If bad weather is expected, get clearance from your safety supervisor before starting a job. The last thing you need is to be 100 feet up in the air when lightning and thunder strike!
Businesses can help their aerial lift workers guard against weather-related dangers, too. In fact, businesses can restrict aerial lift operation at jobsites where there are:
- • Winds above 20 MPH
- • 20 MPH winds are less than 30 minutes away.
- • Temperatures under 10°F degrees
- • Icy weather and/or intense rain or snow
Furthermore, businesses must teach their workers to set up aerial lifts on stable ground, regardless of weather. They must require all workers to treat power lines as live and stay at least 10 ft. away from them.
Ongoing training is crucial for aerial lift operators as well. This training keeps workers up to date about weather-related jobsite dangers. It also gives workers opportunities to share their concerns and questions about working in severe weather conditions. That way, aerial lift operators can use the training to get the help they need to avoid weather-related accidents. At the same time, businesses can do their part to protect their aerial lift operators against severe weather conditions.
Help Aerial Lift Operators Work Safely in Different Climates
Businesses are responsible for providing their workers with safe and healthy work environments. Failure to do so puts employees in danger and can lead to OSHA penalties and fines.
If your business employs aerial lift operators, you should provide training that teaches them how to safely perform tasks in various weather conditions.
CertifyMeOnline.net offers an aerial lift training program that teaches workers about all aspects of lift safety. Upon completion, workers can earn aerial lift safety training certification that verifies they know how to safely use a lift in myriad weather conditions. For more information about our program, please contact us online or call us today at (602) 277-0615.
This post was originally published in 2017 and updated to include more safety tips in February 2021.