Employees working in the rain face specific hazards, such as poor visibility and wet, slippery surfaces.
When it’s wet and windy, potential hazards at a worksite can be exacerbated. Working in the rain can cause slippery surfaces and limited visibility. It’s also riskier to use heavy equipment in the rain, particularly when moving heavy loads, putting workers on the ground – and even the public – in danger.
However, steps can be taken to mitigate such hazards.
It’s imperative that you as an employer ensure your employees’ safety, especially during this heavy year for rain. When working in the rain, train your employees to:
- Move cautiously – While workers may be tempted to move fast in the rain to avoid getting wet, this can be dangerous, especially on slippery surfaces. If anything, they should work more slowly and deliberately in all of their tasks.
- Use the correct equipment – If workers must use electrical tools or equipment, they need to check that they are specifically rated for outdoors. Also, the tools should have textured, no-slip grips and handles.
- Don proper footwear – Workers should wear footwear with heavy treads that can reduce the chances of slipping.
- Remember rain gear – Proper rain gear includes rain pants and a raincoat. The best clothing is ventilated to help your workers stay comfortable. If it’s cold and rainy, they should also wear wool or synthetic materials that can stay warm even when wet.
- Wear non-slip gloves – Workers should wear gloves that provide a sticky grip even when wet. Gloves should be snug and long enough for a jacket sleeve to prevent water from entering.
- Keep vision clear – Workers who wear glasses (if they must wear goggles for certain jobs) should apply anti-fog spray to them. It’s also advisable to wear a hat to keep rain from their eyes. They shouldn’t use headgear that narrows their field of vision.
- Work in proper lighting – When working at night, workers should make sure lighting is adequate and the lights used are rated for outdoor use.
- Ensure visibility – When it’s raining, visibility decreases and it’s easy for motorists and machine operators to have trouble seeing properly. Workers should wear high-visibility clothing, especially in areas with vehicle traffic and heavy machinery. Don’t wear rain gear or vests that have become dull or are no longer reflective.
When it rains, it’s often cold, too – and wet clothing can exacerbate the cold.
Employees working outdoors for prolonged periods of time when it’s cold must be protected from cold stress. Cold stress can cause frostbite, hypothermia and trench foot.
OSHA advises that cold stress is not limited to freezing temperatures, but can occur in outdoor temperatures in the 50-degree Fahrenheit range when rain and wind are present.
OSHA requires addressing this hazard by using protective clothing, in particular the use of layers with an outer material that protects against wind and rain. Although OSHA generally requires employers to pay for their workers’ protective equipment, employers are not required to pay for ordinary clothing such as raincoats.
Rain makes operating cranes, derricks and hoists more dangerous as well, particularly when moving large and heavy objects. Heavy rain combined with wind speed can make loads difficult to control.
Also, if a rainstorm is accompanied by lightning, equipment such as a crane can become a lightning rod.
If you feel you cannot adequately protect your workers during a storm, you should not conduct operations in the rain.