There are several winter weather hazards that workers can become exposed to this time of year as winter starts to roll in. Winter is coming, and employers must do everything they can to prepare for these hazards. We all must take precautionary steps to reduce the likelihood of workplace injuries.
Listed below are five tips for preventing winter workplace hazards.
1) Provide Winter Safety Training
Employers should train their workers on hazards associated with winter weather. Common training topics for winter safety include:
- Winter Driving
- Cold Stress
- Slips, Trips, and Falls
- Company Policies and Procedures
Even if your employees don’t operate equipment or get behind the wheel at work, it’s a good idea to provide them with refresher training. Share a video or host a toolbox talk on how to drive safely in snow, ice, and whiteout conditions.
Employees should be able to recognize the symptoms of cold stress injuries and illnesses. Hypothermia and frostbite are both potentially serious conditions that your workers may encounter.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Slips, trips, and falls are one of the leading causes of workplace injuries. This is especially true in the winter months. Ice can build up in walkways, on staircases, and in parking lots. Train your employees on how to best prevent these types of injuries.
Company Policies and Procedures
You should also provide your employees with a brief refresher training on any policies or procedures related to winter weather. For instance, is there ever a time when weather conditions would cause you to close your business or shut down operations for the day?
2) Implement Engineering Controls
What kinds of engineering controls do you have in place?
Does your workplace use large, radiant heaters? This is just one example of an engineering control that can be effective in protecting your employees. Other examples include the use of warming shacks, or designated heat zones.
You should also provide tools and equipment like shovels, ice melt, snowplows, sanding machines, etc. to help combat the buildup of snow and ice. Make sure your plows are operating on a regular basis.
3) Implement Administrative Controls
Don’t underestimate the power of administrative controls. These are the rules and policies that your workers are trained on and expected to follow. Below are some examples of common administrative controls.
- Scheduling outdoor work for the warmest times during the day
- Requiring the “buddy-system” and avoiding the lone-worker hazards
- Requiring periodic check-ins via radio or phone from outdoor workers
- Limiting the amount of time spent working outdoors on any given day
- Encouraging extra breaks so that workers can warm themselves up
- Encouraging workers to submit near miss reports after experiencing a slip
4) Provide Adequate Clothing and PPE
And although ordinary winter clothing is not necessarily part of this requirement, many employers will still provide their workers with winter gear such as hats, gloves, and jackets.
However, if you do require workers to wear specialty PPE such as flame-resistant (FR) clothing, then you should provide them with clothes that are suitable for winter conditions. The same goes for high-visibility clothing.
There are plenty of options available on today’s market for winter FR clothing and winter high-vis clothing.
Another accessory that many employers choose to supply their workers with are ice grips for shoes.
These slip-on cleats can be worn over the employee’s regular shoes, and provide them with extra traction support. You may want to consider purchasing these for anyone who spends a significant amount of time working outdoors.
Keep in mind though, that the metal cleats on these ice grips can actually cause slip hazards when climbing ladders, getting in and out of equipment, and when walking on smooth surfaces.
5) Review Your Emergency Response Plan
Don’t forget to also review your emergency response plan. If an incident does occur, you want to be ready. All employees should be trained on this plan. After all, they are the ones who are most likely to initiate the response when an incident takes place.
If you follow the tips outlined here, you and your employees will be better prepared for workplace hazards this upcoming winter.
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