Snow and Ice are Game Changers
It’s no surprise that slip, trip, and fall claims peak during the winter months. Not only do snow and ice present hazards to the ground, they also provide cover for uneven surfaces, potholes, and debris. Low temperatures and precipitation present risks of frostbite and overexposure, and also impact the conditions of scissor lifts, platforms, and other working surfaces. A low enough temperature, coupled with high winds or just enough moisture, can have a serious impact on a worker’s footing.
SLIP, TRIP, AND FALL
We may not be able to control Mother Nature, but there are several ways we can protect against winter hazards.
- Snow should be cleared from sidewalks and parking lots as soon as practical
- Ice melt should be applied prior to workers arriving on site for their shift
- Ice melt should be applied liberally and frequently enough to provide traction
- Pay attention; keep your eyes on the ground ahead of you
- Pay attention to your footing; slow down, step carefully
- Use handrails or guardrails when climbing stairs or using lift equipment
- Be mindful of scarves, hoods, or bulky outerwear that limits your line of sight
- Keep your hands free to assist with balance (no hands in the pockets)
- Stay off your cell phone, eyes UP
- Wear appropriate footwear
- Report hazardous surfaces needing attention immediately
Most cases of frostbite can be prevented. The key is to dress appropriately for the conditions. Layering is your friend.
- Layering your clothing helps your body retain heat in cold temperatures
- Wear scarves to protect your neck and lower face area in extreme temperatures
- Wear gloves or mittens to protect hands from the cold
- Wear thick socks or two or three pairs of socks to protect your feet
- Wear insulated and waterproof boots that extend at least mid-calf
- Limit your time outdoors if you must be out in extreme cold to protect against overexposure
- Take regular breaks to reduce the likelihood of overexertion while shoveling or blowing snow or applying ice melt
- Have a designated place to go to warm up – and USE IT!
- Stay hydrated; dehydration is not limited to the summer season
- If your facilities maintenance team is responsible for a large property (apartment complexes, university campuses, hospitals, etc.), they should work in pairs or have regularly scheduled check-ins to assure no one suffers overexertion
- Inspect snow blowers and other equipment in the fall, before they are needed
Now is the time to inspect your vehicles before winter weather sets in
- Winter preparedness includes inspecting tires, hoses, belts, and brakes
- If you are in an area that permits tire chains, inspect them before they are needed
- Test antifreeze levels and top off all fluids
- Inspect windshield wipers and replace them, if necessary
- Test your battery
- Equip vehicles with ice scrapers, jumper cables, a blanket, a flashlight, a shovel, basic tools, a first aid kit, and cones, triangles, or flares (you may even wish to add a bag of sand or kitty litter to the trunk)
- Test your heater and defroster
- If your vehicle requires a diesel fuel additive, make sure you have adequate supply on hand
And two public service announcements:
- Never leave your car running inside a closed garage
- Never leave an unlocked car running unattended with the keys inside
Winter brings with it cold and flu season. Flu and pneumonia vaccines may decrease the likelihood of illness, but there is no guarantee. Be prepared for peak *crud* season. The basics never change:
- Wash your hands frequently
- Cover your mouth when you cough and your nose when you sneeze
- Make tissues and hand sanitizers available and accessible
- Keep a disinfectant spray available and spray doorknobs, telephones, and work surfaces
- Graciously decline to shake hands with someone who obviously has a cold
Finally, my personal favorite:
- Encourage your employees to stay home when they are sick! No one wants them spreading the flu at work!
DEPRESSION AND HOLIDAY STRESS.
We are not mental health professionals, but we’d like to leave you with one last tip: Remember that the holiday season is a very difficult time for some. Depression is not uncommon at this time of year. Many families have experienced job losses the past few years and may or may not yet have recovered from the financial strain. Others may have experienced major life events such as divorce, loss of a loved one, or be dealing with serious illness. Be aware that employees may be struggling more than usual at this time of the year. If your company has an Employee Assistance Program, be sure to post the phone number prominently throughout your facility.
Surviving the winter unscathed is all about preparation. Heroes take breaks and protect their health. Be smart, be safe.
Does your company have formal safety policies in place? Are you responsible for workforce safety or risk management? Email us or give us a call at (816) 349-0850 to see how we can help design a safety and risk management plan that meets your unique needs.