The weather plays a big role in our lives and external temperatures matter even more for those of us who work with our hands with materials that need to be shaped, cut, and molded under precise conditions. Custom metal fabricators often work in a multitude of weather conditions – both indoors and outdoors. As a high-risk occupation, it’s imperative to take extra safety precautions when the cold weather hits. Read on to learn how to ensure a safe working environment for custom metal fabricators during winter.
Inside the Custom Metal Fabrication Shop
Obviously, it is easier to control temperatures inside a metal fabrication shop to maintain comfortable working conditions than the outdoors. However, winter requires taking extra precautions to maintain safe working conditions indoors.
- Consider Seasonal Requirements
The winter weather has a way of seeping indoors no matter what. It is a good idea to conduct a walkthrough of the premises to see what may affect indoor safety. For example, walkways and ramps can get slippery when wet. Putting absorbent mats at entry points can help workers avoid tracking snow and mud into the premises and prevent slip hazards. Keep mops in handy places so that any spills or wet patches can be safely mopped up. Put a signage system in place for when certain areas should be avoided – even something as simple as a moveable sign saying, “Caution. Wet Floors” can remind your workers to proceed with caution.
Have a designated area or lockers for your workers to store their bulky outdoor winter clothes safely so that they aren’t strewn about the workshop, creating a fire hazard.
- Maintain Comfortable Working Conditions
Make sure the fabrication shop is temperature controlled correctly. While it’s easy to set a easy working temperature for an office, custom metal fabricators often use processes that give off high amounts of heat. You’ll have to adjust your thermostat depending on the layout of your space and the jobs at hand to keep your workers comfortable.
Another important reason for making sure your workshop is kept warm is to preserve your equipment. The last thing you need is an accident due to your equipment malfunctioning because it got too cold indoors.
- Ventilation is Key
Fumes can easily build up in a closed environment. Unfortunately, Canadian winters don’t exactly allow you to throw your windows and doors open to let the air flow. Poor indoor air quality can lead to breathing problems among workers. A well-maintained ventilation system is vital to preserving the air quality indoors. The indoor air quality should especially be monitored during periods of high welding activity.
Custom Metal Fabrication Safety Outdoors
Some custom metal fabrication projects can’t be carried out indoors – like repairs to an existing fixed outdoor structure or something that is too big to fit through a workshop’s doors, for example. In such cases, custom metal fabricators need to take extra precautions while working outdoors.
- Bundle Up and Buddy Up
The cold can get to you before you know it, especially if you’re working at a height. Make sure you layer up well if you’re working outdoors. The fingers and toes are among the first bits of the body to go numb so make sure that you are wearing insulated gloves and boots and cover your head. Wear at least three layers of loose-fitting clothing, with the inner layer made of wool, silk, or synthetic materials to wick away moisture, an insulating middle layer of fleece, wool, or down and a weatherproof outer layer.
Have a buddy system in place and never go to work outdoors alone.
- Check Your Equipment
Water cooled equipment tends to freeze outdoors without insulation, batteries die faster in lower temperatures or electrical components can just stop functioning. Check your equipment for safe operational temperature ranges before taking it outdoors. Do not use equipment that is not designed for cold weather or that is not working properly.
- Know Your Metals
Low outdoor temperatures can affect the properties of metals too. The temperature at which their properties change from being bendable to being breakable is called the ductile-to-brittle transition temperature or DBTT. For some metals, this is 0°C while for stainless steel it’s -200°C. Knowing a metal’s DBTT is vital to get things done right if you’re working in sub-zero temperatures.
A Touch of Brass has expertise serving Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley for over 40 years, preventing hazards by implementing top-of-the-line safety measures so every project is treated with care.
Contact us today and let us know what you need!