Winter brings along more than shorter days, snowy landscapes, and dropping temperatures. Wintery weather creates additional hazards and challenges that make work more difficult and dangerous. Ensure your safety culture extends year-round – snow or shine.
Don’t wait until the freezing temperatures set in to begin preparing. It’s important to establish and share winter weather safety plans early on. Unsure of where to start? Use these common winter workplace safety tips as a starting point for what kind of hazards an organization should prepare for.
Pay Attention to Trip, Slip, and Fall Hazards
Outdoor walkways, ladders, scaffolds, and other walking surfaces see the brunt of danger from wintery weather. Ice and snow build up on these exposed areas, making the surfaces hazardous. Be sure to keep surfaces free of ice and snow buildup. Some companies rely on third-parties for snow removal and deicing. But these third-parties typically don’t manage snow and ice on ladders, access points, or higher surfaces. Your company should plan for periodical inspections of areas. Find possible alternate routes until the snow and ice is cleared and limit traffic through these areas. Coordinate your clearing efforts with company resources to ensure the job is done promptly and safely.
Mind Road and Driving Hazards
You can’t control the road conditions outside of your own parking lots. But you can promote safe driving habits and behavior. Help your employees prepare for the drive to and from work by encouraging winter-specific vehicle preparation and maintenance, including:
- Fluids — make sure they’re full and winterized; certain types of fuel and wiper fluid freeze at lower temperatures
- Tires — make sure the tires are rotated regularly, and where applicable, winter tires are installed or chains are kept in the vehicle
- Wiper blades — should be recently checked or changed to ensure they function properly and can fully clean the windshield
You should also keep the following items in their vehicle in case of emergency:
- Ice scraper
- Extra water
- Blanket or warm covering
- Sand or kitty litter (for emergency tire traction)
- Small shovel
- Spare gloves and hat
- First aid kit
- Spare radio
Stay Warm and Stay Covered
The right kind of clothing is essential if you’re going to be working outdoors in the cold. Wear winter-appropriate clothing and gear if outdoor work is required. Exposure to freezing temperatures without proper gear can lead to hypothermia and frostbite. Both are serious, potentially fatal, and can lead to permanent damage if untreated or not addressed fast enough.
- Hypothermia is an internal physical condition that affects the body when the core temperature drops too low. Signs of hypothermia include slurred speech, discoordination, uncontrollable shivering or shaking, drowsiness, and confusion.
- Frostbite is an exterior physical condition that sets in when skin and limbs are exposed to freezing cold temperatures for extended periods of time. This leads to the skin freezing as blisters, rashes, and spots form. Frostbite left untreated long enough can lead to the skin turning black and the loss of fingers or limbs.
Treating both conditions requires immediate medical attention. Warm up gradually and remove any wet clothing. Don’t run hot water on or apply hot compresses as this can worsen the state of both conditions.
Workplace safety in winter is all about proactivity, awareness, precaution, and sensibility. Taking the extra time to keep your employees alert about the dangers of working in the wind, snow, ice, and cold will help everyone get home safe to enjoy the season.
Optimum Safety Management provides the information and services to help companies develop safety leaders and improve overall safety performance. For more information on how Optimum Safety Management can assist with your businesses’ safety needs, contact an expert today, or reach out via phone at 630-759-9908.
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