CREW MEMBERS TAKE MINNEAPOLIS: WORKING UNDER COLD CONDITIONS
WEDNESDAY // FEBRUARY 7, 2018
If you were lucky enough to attend the Super Bowl this year, then you got lucky the big game took place inside the climate-controlled U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Outside of the 70°F stadium temperature, surrounded the coldest outdoor Super Bowl temperatures in history. Temperatures for the big game reached just above 0°F, with wind chill making it feel minus 20°F, USA Today reported.
For the production crew, frigid, snowy weather creates a whole different playing field. It is vital for all site supervisors, employers and individual crew members to prepare accordingly for each and every job impacted by severe weather conditions.
On January 22, people located in the Plains and Midwest were advised to stay off of the roads during heavy snowfall and powerful, gusting winds. All travel was expected to be dangerous especially closer to the evening, ABC News reported.
The storm affected the outdoor crew working downtown, just blocks away from the Super Bowl stadium. We spoke to Site Supervisor Robert Castro of Gallagher Staging & Productions after dangerous weather conditions prompted him to shorten his crew’s normal work day. Castro detailed the extent of how the stormy weather has affected the custom truss structure build in Minneapolis thus far.
“It was super windy all day. Our guys are rigged in the air, so when the wind gusts reached 30 miles per hour we had to pull it down and tell the guys to go home,” Castro said.
These conditions are not typical for staging crew. During the build, temperatures dropped to 25°F, but the windchill factor caused the temperature to feel 14°F. That being said, supervisors must closely monitor the work environment at all times.
“We work in the rain unless it gets super bad. We work as long as we feel comfortable and safe, and when it takes a direction for the worse, we slow down and wait for it to pass,” Castro said.
The Construction Health & Safety Manual: Rigging reads, “Never carry out a hoisting or rigging operation when winds create hazards for workers, the general public, or property.”
More specifically, high gusts of wind may cause equipment to swing or even rotate out of control, creating danger to riggers and potentially overloading the hoisting equipment.
Another consideration was the surface of the truss riggers utilized in order to climb.
“The snowfall causes truss to become wet and eventually the wind gusts cause everything to freeze over and become slippery,” Castro said.
When it came to objects freezing over, truss and other equipment were not the only issues.
“Anything on the truck that cannot freeze needs to be insulated. We had liquids in our first aid kit freeze solid,” said Project Manager Joe Golden of Gallagher Staging.
During winter storms such as these, it is so important for supervisors to know safety precautions including dressing in proper gear. The crew geared up with the appropriate pants and layers including a jacket with a waterproof layer and layer to keep warm.
Shoes must be insulated and waterproof to stay decently warm, but Castro described his severe weather experience as a horribly cold one, due to steep snow reaching above their boots and ankles.
“You need lots of layers, especially wool and polypropylene lined socks. Your hands can’t work in waterproof gloves, so bring several pairs of dry gloves to change into once they get wet,” Golden suggested.
All geared up, Castro and his crew felt “like marshmallow men wobbling down the street” as they observed Minneapolis natives walking through downtown wearing jeans. Natives are use to the cold, but you have to consider the time spent inside to give their bodies’ a break to warm up.
Castro and his crew made sure to take breaks inside, but for the most part the crew diligently worked on the structure outdoors - much more time was spent outside than the on-foot passers.
Knowing what gear to wear is one thing, but for Castro the most important task is knowing when to call it quits before any accidents may occur.
Who is responsible for calling it off? It varies from job to job, Castro added, possibly the supervisor, the client or a safety guy on site. For this particular job, the stage hands worked inside the arena so they were not used to doing this type of work outside. Castro is the supervisor on site, so it was his job to pay close attention to weather conditions and how it may have affected the safety of his crew.
As a supervisor, having a plan of action instilled prior to the build is so important, Castro said. This involves a bit of risk assessment, in the phase where a risk is in its “raw state” and the supervisor should visualize everything that he or she will carry out to manage the danger, the Event Safety Alliance wrote in the Guide to Risk Assessment 1.01.
The risk assessment process in its entirety, includes the following steps:
- Identify hazards
- Identify all parties who might be harmed
- Evaluate risk
- Record assessment
- Monitor & Review
Not only is the event organizer responsible for monitoring the safety of his crew, but also the crew themselves.
“The boots on the ground should also be able to speak up if they feel that conditions have become unsafe,” said Dan Broadhead of Gallagher Staging. This goes along the lines, if you see something, say something.
Going into the build, Castro explained, was a little nerve wracking nonetheless because of the cold weather, wind and the location of the build.
“Having trust in the engineering is everything,” Castro. The outdoor Super Bowl structure was very custom with the various custom angles within. When the team began building the structure, Castro felt very confident in both the engineering performance and crew on-site.
Along with feeling confident in the structure’s engineering, the crew relied on the Weather Nowcasting system to alert him, receive updates and help prepare ahead of time with future weather reports.
In addition, Golden told us the usefulness in Weather Ops from WDT for forecasting during this project.
“It’s been great as it’s going to get. [The weather] totally has the potential to make things go south, but we have an awesome crew here. Of course we all hate the cold and wind, but our crew is amazing and gets the job done correctly,” Castro added.
The big game was on Sunday, February 4, where the Philadelphia Eagles took the win over The New England Patriots. Although inside, fans bundled up during travel and planned their journey to the stadium accordingly.
“We’re the first ones here and the last ones to leave. We’re here for the experience, and it’ll be one to brag about for a long time,” Castro said.
The below section is dedicated to inform cold stress and wind chill factors, implications and ways to keep warm and stay safe while working in cold weather conditions.
According to OSHA.gov, cold stress happens when the skin temperature drops and causes the internal body temperature to plummet. Additionally, wind speed creates a wind chill effect causing heat to exert from the body.
Types of cold stress include trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia. Cold stress varies on location, for example, temperatures near freezing are categorized as cold stress in areas not use to cold weather.
Visit OSHA.gov for a detailed list of cold stress symptoms and treatment advice.
Again, the actual air temperature combined with wind speed affects how cold you are. The definition of wind chill on OSHA.gov, is “the term used to describe heat loss from the human body.” One should use the National Weather Service (NWS) Wind Chill Calculator to determine the correct temperature your body feels.
What Employees Can Do
Dress Properly: The first thing you can do to keep warm is dress correctly. Wear at least three layers of loose clothing.
- Inner: Stay dry by wearing wool, silk or synthetic
- Middle: Stay insulated by wearing wool or synthetic
- Outer: Prevent overheating by wearing an outer wind/rain protection layer
*Be sure to have extra clothing nearby in case clothes get wet.
Wearing a hat or hood keeps your entire body warmer than it would be without one. If necessary, wear a knit mask over your face and mouth. To combat water, use insulated gloves and waterproof boots.
Although your employer should already have done so prior to the job, familiarize yourself with cold stress symptoms, listed on OSHA.gov.
Since moisture and dampness increases loss of heat, stay dry in cold areas. Lastly, follow safe work practices, proper engineering controls and employer provided personal protective equipment (PPE).
Eat Right = Stay Warm: Some foods make your body temperature warmer than other foods! The Healthy Eating segment from SFGate provides food suggestions that may benefit you more than others.
Clearly, eating hot food is the way to go. Slow cook food such as roasts, soups and stews are perfect to save hands-on time spent cooking. Adding spice to your food increases body temperature as well.
Choose foods high in complex carbohydrates. Whole plant foods such as
- Green vegetables
- Whole grains (oatmeal, pasta, whole-grain bread), starch vegetables (potatoes, corn, pumpkin) and beans, lentils and peas.
Your body needs fat, especially during the winter. Not only does fat provide insulation, but the body utilizes fat in order to absorb vitamins A, E, K and D, SFGate reported. More specifically, a vitamin D (absorbed from sunlight) deficiency may damage your health as well as contribute to depression. Correct fats to eat include:
- Nuts & nut butters (cashew butter, almond butter, etc.)
- If you must eat red meat, stick to the correct service portion (three ounces) & only three times per week
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Just like you make sure to hydrate during the peak of summer, you must do the same in colder temperatures. Choosing hot tea kills three birds with one stone, meaning it’s a good source of hydration, will naturally warm your body and distributes antioxidants to provide muscle endurance.
In order to prevent cold stress, site supervisors and all employers in general should consider the following:
- Train workers on recognizing environmental and workplace factors potentially leading to cold stress
- Inform employees on symptoms, prevention such as proper clothing, and treatment
- Monitor worker physical condition
- Schedule several short breaks in warm/dry areas & schedule work during the warmest point in the day
- Have employees work in pairs
- Provide warm/sweet beverages (without alcohol), and radiant heaters