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Winter Construction Tips to Keep Your Equipment and People Safe

September 29, 2022

Construction equipment in the snow on a trailer.

Winter is coming … for your equipment and jobsite. 

Whether you plan to store your fleet during the cold months or keep building all winter long, your machines need to be ready if freezing temperatures or inclement weather are in the forecast. No matter where you live, cold can be a challenge for your fleet and your team — and frozen precipitation can make things especially dangerous.

5 Tips To Get The Most Out of Your Fleet in Winter

Here are five tips to get the most out of your fleet if you’re planning on continuing operations through the winter.

Inspect Your Tires

For every drop of 10 degrees Fahrenheit, tire pressure drops one psi. This can cause a variety of problems, such as uneven wear and an increased risk of blowout. For machines using solid tires, winter makes them more vulnerable to cracking and chunking. Make tire checks a part of your daily routine. 

Also, remember to remove any counterweights when not in use, as they put added stress on tires that can shorten their lifespan. T3 can alert you to low tire pressure in real time.

Take Care of the Undercarriage

Maintenance of your track and undercarriage can account for a good chunk of your equipment’s maintenance costs over its lifecycle. Clean away mud, snow or debris that has accumulated before it gets out of hand. Carefully inspect the undercarriage for any worn or loose parts, including brushings, sprockets, rollers, idlers, pins and shoes. Replace or tighten them as needed. 

Check the track’s tension and adjustment, according to manufacturer specifications and the needs of the situation. Remember that equipment used on loose, muddy or snowy ground should have a looser tension than equipment operated on firmly packed earth.

Check Your Fluids

Before winter begins, all fluid systems should be inspected, including seals and hoses. Oil viscosity changes with lower temperatures — impacting seals and joints and increasing friction. Choose an oil viscosity that matches outside temperatures to get working faster from a cold start.

Your cooling system is also a vital part of cold weather operation. In addition to keeping your engine from freezing, it prevents corrosion, lubricates shaft seals and raises boiling point temperatures. In most cases, a 50-50 mixture of coolant and water is ideal. However, in very cold climates, 70-30 may be preferable. 

Remember: Organic Additive Technology (OAT) coolants and conventional coolant should never be mixed! Regularly inspect transmission, brake and hydraulic fluids and components as well to ensure they stay in good working condition.

Fill the Tank

Moisture or contaminants in your fuel can cause fuel injection system failure or clog the fuel filter. To minimize this risk, keep tanks full to prevent condensation inside the tank and fuel lines. Check caps and vents to make sure the seal is tight. Consider adding an additive fuel treatment to unfreeze filters, liquefy fuel and remove moisture. And always keep a spare filter handy. 

Remember: DEF freezes at 12 degrees Fahrenheit or colder, so make sure you have a way to heat and thaw frozen DEF to prevent downtime. If you’re using an internal tank heater, make sure you properly execute the shutdown procedure and wait for the DEF to finish pumping back to its reservoir before turning the machine off.

Check Your Batteries

Cold is especially hard on batteries. Low temperatures cause batteries to drain and make it harder to start the engine. Perform periodic checks throughout cold months. Regularly clean rust, dirt or debris that can slowly drain the battery from terminal posts and connectors. Always be on the lookout for signs of weakness or impending failure, including slow cranking, leakage or issues with electrical components. Be aware that a battery that performs well in extremely hot temperatures may not survive the stress of freezing weather.

4 Tips For Storing and Maintaining Construction Equipment

If you don’t plan on using an asset for the winter, here are four tips for storage and preventative maintenance.

Clean It Up

Your machines are an investment, so don’t lower their value by skipping an easy step like keeping them clean. You can also use an anti-corrosive spray and grease the metal parts of the machine for further cold-weather protection. Remember: It’s easier to clean your machines before it gets cold outside.

Remove the Battery

If a piece of equipment is going to sit idle for an extended period of time, remove the battery and store it out of the cold. This is especially important if you’re unable to store the machine itself indoors — batteries and cold weather don’t mix.

Perform Scheduled Maintenance

Before you winterize equipment, perform regular maintenance so it’s ready to go in the spring. Check engine fluids and lubricants and replace them as needed. Stabilize fuel or drain the fuel tank if you don’t plan to run the machine at all for the season. Follow OEM guidelines on proper machine storage. 

EquipmentShare offers heavy equipment service kits with everything you’ll need, and  T3 can help you schedule maintenance and assign technicians to get the job done on time.

Store Under Cover

If you have the space, store your heavy equipment indoors to avoid damage and prevent rust. If the storage space is temperature-controlled, that’s another plus because fluctuating temps won’t affect engine fluids and fuel. 

We also recommend removing and storing any attachments to minimize stress on joints and hinges while the machine sits. If space is limited, cover your equipment where possible to reduce exposure to the elements.

How to Keep Construction Workers Safe During the Winter

Winterizing heavy equipment seems like a daunting task, but making the effort now will save you tons of time — and money — come spring. Your equipment is only half the story, though. Your jobsite and equipment yard are also affected by winter, and it’s vital to take the right precautions to keep your people safe.

Start Now

Before cold weather ever hits, you should have winter safety procedures in place. No safety plan is one-size-fits-all, so make changes for new or unfamiliar jobsites and revise procedures that didn’t work last year. And before snow and ice covers the ground, repair hazards that could trip up your employees. Snow-covered potholes and uneven walkways could injure workers before they even step onto the jobsite.

Training, Training, Training

Training is another task you can accomplish in the fall to get everyone on-site prepared for harsh conditions. In addition to reinforcing your safety procedures, make sure everyone working outdoors knows how to recognize signs of cold stress, like frostbite. 

Tip: Offer extra safety training to any employees performing jobs that get more dangerous in the winter, like those who drive company vehicles or operate heavy equipment. The small time investment could prevent big problems when the weather gets dicey.

Know the Forecast

You probably know what the weather is typically like in your area. But since weather can change quickly, stay on top of the forecast throughout the day. Your safety procedures should cover what to expect when inclement weather shuts down the jobsite. When temperatures are extremely low, it can be dangerous to be outdoors for extended periods of time. Consider putting work off until temperatures rise.

Dress for the Weather

Construction workers are already expected to wear proper footwear and safety gear, but winter conditions call for extra layers. Ensure your employees are wearing footwear that’s not only slip-resistant, but also keeps their feet warm and dry. Some employers provide workers with winter coats and gloves. And because it gets dark early in the winter months, high-visibility PPE is even more important on the jobsite.

Inspect Your Site

Daily jobsite inspections can be especially important in the winter. Snow and ice can accumulate overnight and will need to be cleared before work can begin. 

Any snow or ice removal needs to be done safely. Snow blowers should be grounded before use, and clearing snow from roofs should be done without putting workers on the roof itself. If icicles have formed, remove them. If the icicles are too large, mark off the area so there’s a lower risk a falling icicle could injure a worker. 

Heat Things Up

For worker safety and comfort, you should use heaters on the jobsite wherever you can. Heat an enclosed space for workers to warm up throughout the day. Make sure workers are trained on how to operate the heater and the area is properly ventilated. EquipmentShare's Advanced Solutions can help you find the right climate control for your jobsite.

About EquipmentShare

Founded in 2015 and headquartered in Columbia, Mo., EquipmentShare is a nationwide construction technology and equipment solutions provider dedicated to transforming the construction industry through innovative tools, platforms and data-driven insights. By empowering contractors, builders and equipment owners with its proprietary technology, T3, EquipmentShare aims to drive productivity, efficiency and collaboration across the construction sector. With a comprehensive suite of solutions that includes a fleet management platform, telematics devices and a best-in-class equipment rental marketplace, EquipmentShare continues to lead the industry in building the future of construction.