I know a contractor whose response to a bad weather forecast tends to make me chuckle. After 40 years in the industry, he'll watch a weather station, and if a bad storm or mercury drop show up, he keeps watching it, as though that would be enough to change the outcome. He eventually stomps up, grabs another cup of coffee, adds another layer and sighs rather dramatically before heading out the door to get to the job site.
Unfortunately, his routine hasn't changed the weather to date. Because the construction market can be fickle, and clients even more so, we're stuck dealing with high winds, winter storms and dangerously cold temperatures while trying to combat nature in the interest of putting up one more wall or a little more roof before having to call it. For those who brave the elements, the cost is often far too many more slips, falls and frostbite than any other time of year. Here are some great tips to help you beat the odds against lousy winter weather.
Bundle Up: This kind of weather isn't the time for the tough-man competition - instead of suffering through it, encourage your crew to dress in layers, from longjohns to that second coat if it's needed. Layers mean that if the day warms up, they can shed what they need while still having them on hand to put on if the north wind starts to bite again.
Heat It Up: Compared to the cost and lost productivity that a worker's comp claim can cost, putting up a few sheets of poly and starting a heater will make better economic sense in the long run. Not only will everyone be more comfortable, they'll work faster and more productively at the same time.
Take advantage of technology: I always laugh at the battery-powered vests and coats that tie into existing power tool family batteries, but they sure do look good when January drafts are blowing all the heat out of me. The same can be said for battery-heated socks and gloves that help keep your extremities warm.
Go old-school: There's something to be said for wool, even if it's a bit of a pain to wash. Look for items marked as "superwash" to avoid the shrinkage issue, or buy a few sizes larger and shrink it on purpose. There's a reason why navies in cold parts of the world use boiled wool as their go-to cold weather protection.
Go soft: As silly as it sounds, those fluffy angora knits actually have a great secret that fiber crafters can tell you about - it's eight times warmer than wool. You can always take a pair of scissors to minimize the fluffy bits, but your hands and feet will thank you.
De-ice it: Construction has one of the worst slip-and-fall accident rates of any industry, and winter ice just makes it worse. Instead of telling yourself you'll watch out for it, toss down a little de-icer, sand or salt to gain some serious traction advantage.
Eat up: This is the perfect time of year to buy your crew an extra meal. Using muscle in the cold burns through energy faster, and a crew that is tired from cold and lack of food makes mistakes.
Schedule around it: Does that particular outdoor framing job really need to be done today, or can you take on an indoor spot that's easier to heat instead? If there's any flexibility at all, pass on the work that keeps you out in the worst of it in favor of more agreeable surroundings.