Long before the seasons begin to change and the first hint of winter teases its bitter chill, you should have your sights on your winter safety program. Wintry conditions not only increase the risk of worker injury but also the chances for expensive equipment failure.
Is your worksite prepared to battle the blustery conditions this winter? Many industrial air compression systems for operating pneumatic tools are located outside or in minimally insulated faculties. This makes sense during moderate weather conditions found in the spring and fall but is problematic in the winter months when anything that can freeze, does.
Cold temperatures impact tooling capability in the following ways:
- Equipment failure
- Corrosion of system components
- Frozen fluids
- Obstruction and voids
- Warping and breakage
- Excessive electrical usage
Make sure your cold-weather program identifies these cold weather exposure hazards in your work environment and provides solutions for your team and your tools.
In an ideal world, you would avoid running air tools when the temperatures dip below freezing. However, you have a job to do and deadlines don’t care about the outside temperature. To help, we have tips to protect the integrity and performance of your tools when the mercury drops.
Extend Tool Life with Preventative Maintenance Tips for Cold Weather
If you’re not getting the most bang for your buck with your tool investments, your current preventative maintenance program may be to blame. Pneumatic tools, power tools and even hand tools need special care during the winter months. The right time to begin winterizing your tools and equipment should be about 2-3 months before the weather turns cold. This gives you a chance to inspect your tools, compressors, hoses, pipes, drains and insulation for damage and replace any worn components.
Extend your pneumatic tools’ life expectancy with these winter maintenance tips:
Winterize Air Compressors
Winterize your compressor by upgrading your dryer systems to eliminate moisture and frozen fluids. Change your filters. You may be required to use thicker oils during the winter months and clean filters help the compressor operate more efficiently. Consider installing heating systems to help regulate your compressor and components against extreme temperatures. Don’t forget to drain the system regularly to prevent the unit from seizing up due to obstructions like fluid buildup or sludge. Check oil levels more frequently as your compressor may run hotter and burn through more oil during initial start-ups during the winter months.
Routinely Inspect Air Tools
Avoid injury and expensive downtime with regular service and maintenance of your various air tools. Complete a visual inspection daily to spot defects or damage to tool components. Check operating air pressures and volumes to ensure they are within recommended ranges. Check lines for moisture that can freeze or lead to rust build-up. For optimum performance, lubricate pneumatic tools and fittings regularly. We recommend the use of winter grade lubricant during cold weather months.
NOTE: Make sure the tool has no fasteners in its magazine before/during firing to avoid damaging the tool or work surface and prevent injury.
Choose the right lubricating oil for cold temperatures
Are you using the right lubricating oil for cold temperatures? We recommend switching to a winter grade lubricant like Paslode Cold Weather Lubricating Oil with Anti-Freeze or Kilfrost K400 Anti-Freeze Pneumatic Tool Lubricant. Both use Anti-Freeze to stop moisture freezing in pneumatic tools.
Paslode knows tools and they know how to keep your tools operating at maximum capacity for the longest life possible. For pneumatic tools, they recommend using their Pneumatic Tool Lubrication Oil with Anti-Freeze. This cold weather air tool oil is specially formulated to work in temperatures under 32° Fahrenheit and can be used on all Paslode pneumatic, air-driven tools.
Pro Tip: Paslode suggests applying 6 to 20 drops per day depending on work conditions.
For over 30 years, Kilfrost has kept tools and machinery running in tough industries like mining, oil and gas, construction, shipyards and more. It’s why we recommend Kilfrost K400 Anti-Freeze Pneumatic Tool Lubricant to stop moisture freezing and equipment failure in air-fed tools. This formula can absorb four times its weight in water and offers over three times the pressure protection over previous generations of oil.
Benefits of using winter weight lubricating oil:
- Stop moisture freezing and equipment failure, avoiding reduced downtime
- Reduce servicing of the pneumatic tool thanks to strong anti-wear capability
- Enhanced corrosion protection for longer equipment lifetime
Select proper storage solutions for power tools
Proper tool storage can be a source of frustration regardless of the season. Without it, tools are often misplaced, damaged or stolen. In the cold winter months, tool storage serves a critical purpose, protecting tools from inclement weather and freezing temperatures. It is best practice to store air tools in a warm and dry location before use.
Tools of all kinds are best stored indoors where temperatures are controlled, but for different reasons:
1. Power tool storage
A common cause of early power tool death is when a cold tool is operated before it has a chance to warm up. We recommend allowing tools, especially those containing oil or grease, to warm up before the initial start-up. Otherwise, the rapid temperature swing from cold to hot could put unnecessary stress on the tool and impact lubricity. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for lubricating pneumatic tools.
2. Cordless power tool storage
Battery-powered tools are sensitive to temperature changes and extreme shifts can accelerate battery discharge. Some manufacturers even warn users that chargers and some fuel cells won’t work when cold.
Even hand tools are susceptible to the impacts of cold weather and should be properly stored to prevent small parts and brittle components from breaking. Clean dirt, grime and other debris from tools before storing them in a dry, temperature-controlled location.
Winter Weather Safety Tips to Protect Workers
Bonus tips for winterizing your worksite and preventing winter hazards like:
- Cold stress
- Slip, trips and falls
Prevent cold stress
When was the last time you reviewed the personal protective equipment and work clothes your employees are wearing? Protect workers from icy, cold conditions with cold-rated apparel that keeps them warm and dry. Choose water-resistant boots to prevent illnesses like trench foot or frostbite and winter gloves that are matched to their job requirements. Additional warming products can include:
- Hard hat liners
Clear walkways, drives and loading zones of ice and snow
Did you know that slips, trips and falls accounted for 880 workplace deaths in 2019, according to the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP)? Do you have a snow or ice removal program in place?
As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Prepare your worksites ahead of time to avoid costly and devastating injuries. Be sure all high traffic areas like walkways, sidewalks and driveways are clear of debris, ice, snow and standing water to prevent accidental slip and falls. And don't forget to clear snow and ice from roofs and other nearby structures.
Enhance worker visibility
Work gear should not only keep workers warm in cold weather; it should protect against low-visibility conditions common in winter. Low visibility due to fog, snow or rain is a common cause of accidents and injuries during the winter months. Even poorly-lit areas like warehouses can increase the chances of a worker experiencing a struck-by accident involving falling objects or equipment like forklifts and loaders. Whether your team works indoors or out, workers should be identifiable and differentiated from the job environment with high-visibility apparel.
LINC Systems is proud to carry a variety of safety, industrial supply, fastening and packaging products from top-rated brands. We also have the services you need to manage your operations more efficiently. If you would like to consolidate your supply needs and start saving time and money, contact us today by calling 800-513-9918 or visit LINCsystems.com.