How to winterize your job site

Erik Bornstein
February 8, 2019

With the polar vortex finally behind us, we wanted to touch on a very important safety measure- winterizing your job site! We’re sure many of you found yourselves concerned about the safety protection of not only your crew members, but also elements of your ongoing projects during Ontario’s latest cold front. Living in the North, winterizing your work site is a crucial step to take, and as many of us have learned the hard way, it’s best done BEFORE the brutal weather hits! Canada’s a wonderful place to live- but our weather is nothing if not unpredictable. It’s important to be proactive so that we’re prepared and adaptable to sudden changes in working conditions. Here are a few tips we think you’ll find helpful.

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Protect Your Foundation And Footings

If you’re starting a project in late fall/early winter, you need to take proper steps to protect your foundations and footings. When frost enters the ground, water in the dirt freezes causing the ground to expand (a process known as “frost heave”) which can crack or damage the concrete, or move your footings making them uneven. The simplest way to proactively protect your footings while you are constructing them is to cover them with insulated tarps/ poly blankets. These tarps can be spread over an area, and will use the heat from the ground and the concrete to keep the frost from entering.

Straw is also sometimes used to cover the excavated hole in some circumstances. This option is inexpensive, though it is more labour intensive to spread and remove than tarps when it’s time to backfill the excavated hole. However, straw has the unique ability to generate its own heat, so it isn’t reliant on ground heat to ward off frost during those particularly cold winter days. Straw cannot be left in the hole it must be removed as it can cause problems even if its buried next to the wall.

When starting your winter project, consider the impact of snow, rain and sleet. Knowing were drainage areas exist, and working with them instead of against them can promote a stronger foundation under both your project and under the equipment your team is using.

Protect Your Brickwork And Masonry

The best way to protect the brick and stone is to build an insulated scaffold system and heat the areas where the masonry is going to be applied. Be sure to protect your bricks and masonry by keeping them clear of snow and ice. Moisture from precipitation can discolour and damage your masonry, and it can also cause shifting between bricks and paving slabs. When it comes to flooring, keeping pathways cleared and salted is also a necessary safety measure for employees.

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Protect Your Team

Most importantly, having adequate on site heating and warm apparel for your crew members is another essential for a properly winterized site. Insulated footwear and gloves are a must- it’s all fun and games until someone loses a toe to frostbite! During the recent cold spell our crew found the Bosch Heated Jackets and insulated, steel toed Vismo Boots especially useful for staying warm on their daily outdoor missions from site to site. Keep a few extra layers handy on site for the crew. (Hit us up for some TOOLBX hats and hoodies!) It may seem above and beyond the call, but being cold impedes agility and muscle function which will ultimately decrease your crew’s productivity.

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With this in mind it is important to keep your site properly heated. Consider the specific needs of your site so you can determine what type of heater will be best for the job. Your building materials, required temperature, time frame, building shape and size should all factor in to the type of heater you choose. Here are a few of the commonly chosen heating options for construction sites:

  • Direct Fired Heaters- most inexpensive/ practical option for temporary on site heating- can function in temperatures as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Indirect Fired Heaters- more complicated system than the above, but provide clean air making them ideal for sanitary places like hospitals or industrial facilities.
  • Electric Heaters- good for heating smaller areas. Provides dry heat, but is significantly more expensive than the other types of heaters.
  • Convection Heaters- propane run, portable- ideal for sites where electricity/power is not readily available.
  • Hydronic Heaters- great for concrete pouring, dry heat. Limited area coverage.

Don’t hesitate to contact the TOOLBX Team if you’re needing some materials to help winterize your work site!