Winter weather can be hazardous, whether you employ indoor or outdoor staff. It’s imperative for you, as company leaders, to fully understand and predict potential hazards and take any necessary precautions to keep your employees safe.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 26.6 per/10,000 full-time employees were injured on the job in 2018. The winter months pose additional risks.
Falls, Slips, Trips
Snow, ice and freezing temps in the winter multiply the number of wet and slippery surfaces at work and the potential for accidents.
- Often overlooked is ice build-up on walkways and outdoor break areas, which are regularly used by staff. It’s good practice to ensure these areas are clean. Always check after professional snow removal teams plow, since plowing frequently re-covers areas that your team previously cleared.
- Keep all work areas clear, including stairways and walkways.
- Be diligent and remove any potential threats by immediately clearing snow or water residue brought inside the building via boots and coats.
- Steer clear from moving heavy loads over ice and snow; it can compromise your balance.
- Bring bold attention to any hazardous areas — post signs, cones, or barricades in plain sight as a warning to workers.
- Footwear, especially for outdoor workers, should be appropriate and have increased traction.
- While outdoors in winter weather, it is sometimes hard for drivers to see workers unless they wear high-visibility safety vests
Cold stress, often seen during cold months, can lead to hypothermia or frostbite, which can have long-lasting effects. Call for help immediately if these conditions exist.
- Signs of hypothermia can include shivering, shaking, slurred speech, confusion, drowsiness, or lack of coordination.
- Signs of frostbite include visible swelling or blisters, muscle, and joint stiffness or cold skin that is pale-colored and hard on the surface.
- If you suspect cold stress injury, EHS recommends “Keeping the affected body part elevated to reduce swelling, and move the person to a warm area to prevent further heat loss. Remove all wet clothing and apply a dry, sterile bandage to the affected area or place cotton between any involved fingers or toes. Seek proper medical care as soon as possible.”
The Bottom Line
A structured safety protocol will help avoid winter accidents. It’s also essential to create an environment where everyone in your company has the responsibility to reinforce and initiate safety protocols.
A peer-reviewed study from Science Direct, research indicated a correlation between worker safety and worker engagement. Researchers suggested that “safety systems need to include workers beyond those typically involved in a strict safety management system. Workers are the system! Workers, who come into daily contact with hazards and hazardous situations and who are at the sharp-edge of accidents, appear to play an equally important role as the specific system of safety management practices in preventing accidents from occurring.”
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