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How To Keep Employees Safe In Winter Weather

By Nina Terenzi, Dec. 07, 2021
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Frigid temperatures, snowstorms, icy roadways and surfaces, and strong winds are all a product of New England winters. These conditions present hazards to everyone, not the least of which are employees who spend a significant part of their workday outside. From illness to injuries, exposure, and even fatalities, it’s important for employers to take necessary precautions to protect them.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been an annual average of over 20,000 workplace slip-and-fall injuries involving ice, sleet, or snow that required at least one day away from work to recuperate, not including falls from heights or through unsecured surfaces. To help keep you, your employees, and your business safe from injury and lawsuits, we’ve put together a list of ways to reduce the risk of a winter-related accident.

1. Clear ice and snow from parking lots, walkways, and entries promptly and frequently. Even when cleared, use absorbent mats at entrances and post signs to indicate slippery surfaces.

2. Require and enforce proper attire for all employees. For example, delivery drivers or those who help load vehicles should wear slip-resistant shoes or boots. Employees who are exposed to the outdoors often should wear insulated, water-resistant boots and clothing.

3. Be mindful of snow shovel safety. Just like anyone who’s shoveling driveways and walkways at home, it can be a strenuous activity and cold weather can be extra taxing on the body in addition to the risk of a back injury or slips and falls. Start slowly by scooping small amounts of snow at a time and whenever possible, push the snow instead of lifting it.

If you have significant amounts of snow and ice to remove, use high-power equipment such as  a snowblower. Do a safety check before you use any equipment and always keep limbs away from moving parts. Also, never refuel while the machine is still plugged in and running.

4. Before attempting to remove snow and ice at a height, check for hazards. Provide safety training on how to stay alert and identify potential risks. For example, snow-covered roofs can disguise skylights and tripping hazards or even electrical wires. Before stepping onto any surface weighed down by snow, inspect it to ensure it’s structurally safe from collapsing under any additional weight.

5. Ladders can be hazardous even when it’s a beautiful spring day, and they’re extremely hazardous in snowy and icy conditions. They should only be used on surfaces that have been cleared of snow and ice and when there is enough friction underneath to keep them stable.

6. Provide a warm place for employees to take breaks.

7. Educate employees on the symptoms of cold stress, including hypothermia, frostbite, confusion, fatigue, and loss of coordination. Keep posters of these signs around the workplace as a frequent reminder.

8. Have professionals come to conduct a job-site hazard analysis. For instance, check for leaks and cracked concrete where melted snow can penetrate. Clear clogged gutters and downspouts, and make sure your HVAC systems have received appropriate preventive maintenance.

9. If your workplace has 10 or more employees, OSHA requires you to have an emergency action plan, but no matter how many employees you have, you should create and share your plan with everyone on the premises. Make sure your employees know what to do in case of a seasonal emergency including snow, ice, power outage, high winds, etc.

10. Take the weather into consideration when scheduling jobs that expose workers to weather for long periods of time. Try to schedule during the warmest and driest part of the day or year.

11. Encourage employees to bring extra, dry clothes to have on hand as needed.

12. Provide proper winter training at least once a year. This includes how to handle slippery surfaces, dangers of working in frigid weather, safety procedures to practice regularly, etc.

13. Promote safe driving for employees who spend a lot of time on the road. Winter weather can be most dangerous for those who get caught in an unexpected storm. Ensure your workers can identify hazards, are properly trained, and have the right equipment for an emergency. This includes:

  • Windshield ice scraper, snow brush, and shovel
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Tow chain
  • Cellphone and/or two-way radio
  • Traction aids (bag of sand or cat litter)
  • Emergency flares and first-aid kit
  • Jumper cables
  • Snacks and water
  • Road maps
  • Blankets and a change of clothes

We hope these safety precautions help keep you safe all winter long. To learn more about business insurance, or to request a quote, visit our website. Or, to start working directly with a member of the Eastern Insurance Customer Service Team, call us at 1-800-333-7234 and select Option 2, or email us at customerservice@easterninsurance.com.

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