Cold Weather Work

Using tools during the winter can present a safety hazard. Keep in mind the following tips when working in the cold.

December 31, 1999

During winter months, cold weather can prevent tools from operating normally. Mechanical parts can slow down, and users can prevent damage to their tools and themselves by taking a few extra precautions. Tom Groshe, service training and communications manager for Paslode offers advice to contractors working in cold weather.

  • Using the wrong lubricant for pneumatic tools is one of the most common mistakes made by tool users. In areas where the temperature drops below freezing, contractors should change to an antifreeze type of oil. Winter weight oils are lighter and will prevent tool interiors from icing. A 5-weight nondetergent oil is best, according to Groshe.
  • Adding small amounts (about 2 tablespoons) of antifreeze to pneumatic compressor tanks can also prevent hoses from freezing up. Remember to check each hose and fitting to make sure they’re working properly, and keep in mind that hoses will be stiffer to drag around in the cold weather.
  • Although it's best to warm tools before using them, make sure not to expose tools to any extreme temperature swings. Never warm tools by a fire; instead keep them in the cab of a truck to heat them gradually. Warming by a fire can create "hot spots" and damage internal seals. Cordless tool batteries also benefit by being warmed. Charging cold batteries can shorten the unit's battery life.
  • Because tools can slow down in the cold, it's important to double-check all the normal operating safeties in the wintertime. If you don't have an opportunity to warm a pneumatic tool before working, cycle it at a low pressure (40-50 psi) before using them, being careful to remove all nails or other fasteners first. Don't dry-fire the tool at normal operating pressure, or else you may damage the mechanisms.
  • Working with cold materials can also be difficult. If you can't thaw frozen lumber, make sure to carefully scrape ice off surfaces before working. Frozen lumber is more difficult to drive nails through, and ice can cause nails to slip. Make sure you have a careful grip on any frozen lumber. And although few contractors work with roofing materials in the wintertime, if you do have to work with shingles, always warm them up indoors before installing; cold shingles are very brittle.

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