There are no doubt a number of different factors that prompted you to seek a career in the construction industry, one of which was likely the opportunity to escape from the traditional office and work outdoors. Yet for all the freedom that outdoor work offers, exposure to the elements can present dangers (particularly during Pennsylvania’s cold winters). Many who work within your same profession have come to us here at the Law Office of Richard F. Maffett wondering what sort of obligations their employers have in protecting them from winter’s cold weather. The answer to that question can be somewhat complex.

Your employer is tasked with providing you and your coworkers with a safe work environment. However, they are often given a good deal of freedom in determining how to make that happen. Yet when conditions become bad enough, consideration should be given to managing operations more strictly (or ceasing them altogether).

The trick is providing guidance as to when this should happen. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (in conjunction with the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists) has developed a detailed schedule recommending how outdoor wintertime work should be managed based on air temperature and wind speed. It is broken down as follows:

  • With no noticeable wind: Allow 1-5 work breaks, cease all non-emergency operations in temperatures below -45 degrees Fahrenheit
  • With 5 mph wind: Allow 1-5 work breaks, cease operations in temperatures below -40 degrees
  • With 10 mph wind: Allow 2-5 work breaks, cease operations in temperatures below -35 degrees
  • With 15 mph wind: Allow 3-5 work breaks, cease operations in temperatures below -30 degrees
  • With 20 mph wind: Allow 4-5 work breaks, cease operations in temperatures below -25 degrees

More information on outdoor workplace safety can be found throughout our site.