Operating plant in cold conditions

By on May 26, 2016

GAVIN MOREIRA, Member Services Manager for the CMPA provides an extract on precautions to be taken when operating plant under adverse weather conditions.

Accident statistics prove that there is an increased risk of personal injury during the winter months.

Additional hazards of winter working are introduced by:

a) reduced daylight hours

b) rain/snow/fog/ice

Preparations for winter working should be made by checking:

  • Lighting;
  • Heating;
  • Vehicles and mobile plant;
  • Supply of road salt/grit;
  • Snow/ice clearing equipment;
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); and
  • Advance weather forecasts are important.

If adverse weather is predicted some simple precautions can be made in advance.


Particular attention should be paid to lighting requirements for staircases, pedestrian walkways, access roads, loading areas, plant yards, car parks etc. Torches should be used if necessary.


  • Car parks, access roads and pedestrian walkways should be kept clear as practicable;
  • A suitable supply of rock salt/grit should be maintained on site and persons designated to take responsibility for snow/ice clearing duties; and
  • Site personnel should report any areas requiring attention to management without delay.


  • Ensure access steps are clear of ice and snow before attempting to get on or off your machine;
  • When getting off your machine check the ground you are going to step onto is not icy;
  • At the start of your shift ensure the windscreen wash bottle is full and check at break-times;
  • Ensure that the concentration of washer fluid is sufficient as not to freeze during the shift;
  • Ensure there is a plentiful supply of de-icer on site;
  • Check the condition of the windscreen wiper blades to ensure they do not smear the windscreen when operating;
  • Ensure all lights and cameras are clean;
  • Check condition of tyres, especially for under inflation (Cold overnight temperatures result in lower tyre pressures at the beginning of a morning shift. Where tyres have been fitted with an inner tube, the air that is sometimes trapped between the tyre and the inner tube can reduce pressure to such an extent that the beading between the wheel and tyre can become detached when the wheel turns);
  • Ensure flashing beacons are working at all times;
  • Low sunlight can also be a problem – if you have difficulty seeing put on your headlights so others can see you!; and
  • Wear eyewear or fit suitable sun blinds on windscreens of vehicles.


  • Use headlights at the first sign of reduced visibility (many companies now insist that headlights are switched on at all times when a vehicle is moving);
  • Consider suspension of operations during extreme periods of poor visibility;
  • Provide road markers at the side of haul routes to delineate Roadways;
  • If you become lost in fog, STOP and radio for assistance – don’t assume you think you know where you are;
  • Oils will be thicker during cold temperatures so allow your vehicle extra time to warm up before moving off to allow complete circulation of the oil through the engine/ hydraulics;
  • Drivers should ensure there is adequate vision before moving off – i.e. defrost windscreens, clean lights etc.;
  • Vehicles should always be driven according to the prevailing ground, visibility and weather conditions;
  • Allow extra distance for braking under wet or icy conditions. Note: It takes double the distance to pull up in wet conditions and up to TEN times the distance in icy conditions;
  • Operators of excavators and loading shovels that have teeth on their buckets should, in cold temperatures, initially fill the bucket with loose material for a few times before starting to dig solid material. Note: Teeth that have been hardened tend to become brittle in cold temperatures and the teeth can snap quite easily if they have not been “warmed up” through the friction motion of filling the bucket a few times with loose material;
  • Use diff locks where appropriate BUT remember to put back into 2 wheel drive at earliest opportunity;
  • Take extra care when working at faces – the freeze/thaw cycle is at its greatest in winter and can result in unstable faces as ice melts during the day; and
  • Increase inspection of stockpiles – more likely to “hang up” during winter months. Note: Ensure correct machines are on site to scale stocks hanging up or overhanging.


  • Appropriate footwear for the conditions should be worn at all times;
  • It is even more important during hours of darkness or reduced visibility to wear reflective jackets or waistcoats that are reasonably clean;
  • Persons working outside should wrap up warmly. Several layers of clothing are more effective than a single heavy layer. However, it is important that any additional clothing does not obscure high visibility waistcoats or jackets;
  • Do not be tempted to take shortcuts – keep to designated pedestrian routes and report if these need gritting;
  • Additional care should be taken when working near lagoons or watercourses in slippery conditions; and


Information sourced from Mineral Products Association and Quarries National Joint Advisory Committee (QNJAC).

Document produced by Mineral Products Qualification Council (MPQC) and Scottish Coal.


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