Being a handyman (or woman) in the wintertime comes with some unique challenges. Many of the projects that are simple in warm weather become hazardous when you involve ice and frigid temperatures. If you don’t take extra care to plan your cold-weather jobs, you could end up regretting your slothfulness. Failing to prepare for common wintertime hazards could leave you behind schedule at best or seriously injured at worst.
No matter what type of cold-weather customer request you’re preparing to fulfill, make sure you’re ready for it. Once you establish a habit of preparedness, getting ready for seasonal projects won’t seem as inconvenient. Here are five important tips to help you stay safe as you go about your wintertime handyman jobs.
1. Invest in the Proper Winter Wear
Sometimes, unseasoned handymen show up to frosty projects woefully unprepared for the harsh weather. They think that because they’ll be physically exerting themselves, warm-weather gear will only make them hot and sweaty. They may also be wary about wearing thick or heavy clothing that could become cumbersome on the job site. But experienced workers know how essential it is to wear weather-appropriate gear to all work locations.
When the temperature plummets, wear insulated clothing to keep yourself dry and warm. Invest in a pair of warm work gloves that still give your fingers the dexterity needed to complete various projects. Dress in layers so you can customize your level of warmth based on the conditions. For example, you might wear thermals and thick wool socks as your base layer. Your go to pants and a t-shirt can serve as your middle layer. Top things off with a Carhartt hoodie, a heavy winter coat, and waterproof work boots.
2. Know When to Carry a Carbon Monoxide Detector With You
One of the most interesting aspects of being a handyman is that your job responsibilities are often quite versatile. One day you might be working on someone’s indoor plumbing system. The next day, you could be installing storage shelves in someone’s chilly garage. It’s not uncommon for handymen to use portable heaters to keep them warm while working in small, frosty spaces. But that also presents the hazard of potential carbon monoxide poisoning.
More than 400 people in the United States die of carbon monoxide poisoning each year. To keep yourself safe when using a portable heater, always leave at least one door or window open for ventilation. You may also wish to carry a carbon monoxide detector with you to job sites. If the alarm ever goes off while you’re working, leave the area immediately and call the local fire department. Make sure anyone else in the immediate vicinity also evacuates to a safer location.
3. Follow Wintertime Ladder Safety Precautions
Whether cleaning gutters or removing excess snow from someone’s roof, you may need to use a ladder in slick conditions. Navigating a ladder is especially risky in wet, cold, or snowy weather. To avoid falling and injuring yourself, always take extra precautions when using a ladder in the wintertime. Before stepping foot on the first rung, check to make sure the ladder is dry and has no ice buildup. Make sure your shoes are free from mud and ice as well.
If it’s actively snowing, it’s impossible to keep your ladder completely dry while using it. To minimize your risk of slipping, always use the “three-point contact” rule. It requires you to maintain no fewer than three points of contact with the ladder while using it. At a minimum, both hands and one foot or both feet and one hand must maintain contact with the ladder. You should always keep the ladder at a 75-degree angle in the winter so you’re less likely to fall.
4. Stay Hydrated
When the weather is frosty, your body’s thirst response tends to become weaker than it would be in warmer weather. But working in cold weather requires just as much physical exertion as working in warmer temperatures. Plus, your body can lose a lot of liquid due to sweating more than normal when you’re all bundled up. That’s why it’s so important to bring water to all your job sites and stay hydrated throughout the day.
The foods you eat during lunch and work breaks can also help or hinder your hydration efforts. Examples of water-rich food sources include vegetables, fruits, soup, smoothies, and oatmeal. You might also consider adding electrolyte powder to your water bottles occasionally. This will help you replenish the electrolytes lost during your physical exertions. Avoid fried and very salty foods that can further dehydrate your body.
5. Know When Weather Conditions Are Too Severe
As a handyman, your job requires you to work in bad weather at times. This is especially true during the winter months when snow, sleet, ice, and harsh temperatures are all possibilities. However, there may be times when hazardous conditions pose an overt risk to your health and life. It’s important to recognize when weather conditions are too severe to complete your responsibilities.
If you’re experiencing severe and dangerous winter weather, you may need to reschedule some jobs or appointments. Examples of severe weather include sub-zero temperatures, blizzards, and very high winds. It’s ultimately up to you to use your best judgment when determining whether to brave the conditions or reschedule. But know that no job is worth your life.
Working during the winter months is challenging, but necessary to earn a living. Follow these tips to keep yourself as safe and comfortable as possible even when winter weather is at its worst.