Though it brings holiday festivities and fun activities, winter presents unique challenges for the workplace. As snow and ice routinely cover the group, the risk of winter-related injuries is high. Slippery surfaces, reduced visibility, and cold stress are significant hazards that can result in accidents like slips, trips, and falls. In 2021, approximately 850 workers died from injuries sustained from slips, trips, or falls. Addressing these hazards is crucial for maintaining employee safety during winter, ensuring employees can enjoy the winter holidays. This article explores the various hazards presented by winter and strategies employers can use to prevent winter-related injuries in the workplace. From understanding the various dangers to implementing a comprehensive safety plan, this article guides employers seeking to keep their workforce safe and healthy this winter.
Understanding Winter Hazards
Winter weather and conditions result in various hazards that can significantly impact the workplace. Ice and snow accumulation can leave parking lots and outdoor work areas slippery, increasing the risk of accidents. The cold temperatures and winds can also lead to cold stress, including hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot. Employees working outdoors or in unheated facilities may be susceptible to this condition. Beyond the cold and snowy weather, winter brings about shorter daylight hours, reducing visibility. This can lead to accidents, particularly in construction and transportation occupations.
The cold winter season is unavoidable, but many workplaces can adjust the work environment or activities to keep employees safe. Employers must recognize the hazards of winter weather and take steps to prevent injuries in the workplace.
Strategies for Reducing Winter-Related Injuries
Though the winter season brings about numerous hazards and risks, there are steps employers can take to ensure the safety of their employees this holiday season. Employers can create a safe workplace throughout the year by implementing safety strategies like clearing surfaces and requiring winter PPE.
Ensuring Safe and Cleared Surfaces
Winter weather, like snow and ice, can cause slippery conditions in outdoor work environments and parking lots. A clearly defined snow and ice removal procedure can prevent slips, trips, and falls. Properly using salt and de-icing agents can address ice hazards promptly. However, providing adequate training for using these products is essential, as overuse can have negative environmental impacts. Employers should hire services to clear roadways and sidewalks of ice and snow or delegate this task to well-trained employees.
Scheduling Breaks to Prevent Cold Stress
For outdoor work environments, like paving and construction, the cold weather can cause increased stress on the body. During the winter months, employers should increase the number of breaks these employees receive to prevent cold stress and allow employees to manage their body temperature effectively. Outdoor employees should have access to warm break areas, either indoors with heat or outdoors with portable electric heaters. These spaces serve as crucial retreats where employees can thaw out and minimize the risk of cold-related health issues.
Utilizing Proper Winter PPE
To combat cold stress, employers should require adequate winter gear, like heavy coats, gloves, hats, and face protection. These articles of clothing provide crucial protection from the elements and can keep employees safer during cold and snowy weather. For some industries, like construction, employers may consider providing this equipment to ensure it cannot get caught in other machinery.
By integrating these safe work practices into daily operations, organizations can actively mitigate the risks of winter hazards. Employers can reduce winter-related injuries by incorporating these strategies into a winter safety plan.
Creating a Winter Safety Plan
To ensure the safety of employees during the winter months, employers should institute a comprehensive winter safety plan. This plan serves as proactive protection from winter-related accidents for employees. Employers should start with a risk assessment when developing a comprehensive winter safety plan for the workplace. Risk assessments include working with occupational health specialists to identify specific winter-related hazards for your workplace. These specialists are experts at identifying and evaluating hazards. This assessment forms the foundation for targeted safety measures.
Employers can collaborate with employees and occupational health professionals to create winter weather safety protocols based on the risk assessment. These protocols should include information about inclement weather, when work may be delayed or modified, and how that information will be communicated to employees. These protocols should also include procedures for staying safe at work during winter, including snow removal, required PPE, and additional breaks due to cold weather.
Winter safety procedures must also include an emergency response plan in case of winter-related injuries or accidents in the workplace. This may include protocols for getting employees medical assistance, informing the employer about the incident, and receiving worker’s compensation. Once your workplace winter safety plan has been finalized, it is essential to provide training and education to employees to ensure they stay safe and informed.
Use these strategies to keep your employees safe from winter-related injuries in the workplace!
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