As Ned Stark had said over and over again in his short interval in Game of Thrones; WINTER IS COMING. In fact, winter is here. But that doesn’t mean work can be dropped. After all, the Battle of Winterfell took place in a blizzard.
In the real world, the arrival of winter and snow comes with several potential hazards. People who have to work outdoors spend hours exposed to winter elements, especially those who are involved in snow removal, construction, landscaping, etc.
According to the U.S. Department of Health’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, special attention needs to be paid for their safety. Slippery ice and in more serious situations, black ice is a cause of many accidents, slips, and falls. These can result in serious injuries for the workers.
The Cold Hard Fact
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 42,000 work-related injuries in 2014 that involved ice, snow or sleet. Out of these, more than 30,000 involved slips, trips and falls. They resulted in workers taking one or more days off for recovery. Along with that, some results in lawsuits claimed against the worker’s employing companies.
This makes the implementation of safety precautions even more imperative than before. Let’s take a look at some tips for how organizations can create a sense of safety in the workplace among the employees.
Driving in the Snow
Driving in the winter, especially when chances of black ice accumulation are high, it could be very dangerous for the driver and other vehicles around. Whether someone is driving as a part of their job or it’s their way to commute to work, it’s important to be careful.
Road conditions can’t be controlled but safe driving needs to be encouraged. Here are some tips for safe winter driving:
Preparedness always comes in handy regardless of the work situation. When it comes to driving, it involves checking your vehicle before you even get in.
Remove any snow or ice from the front and back windscreens and mirrors, check the battery, tire tread, engine, antifreeze, etc. According to OSHA’s recommendations, you should also have a few things on hand, such as a flashlight, jumper cables, snow shovel and brush, ice scrapers, and some sort of abrasive material such as sand.
Check traffic and weather conditions to ensure your route is safe to take.
Driving and inhibitors (drugs and alcohol) don’t mix. Things can get out of hand pretty quickly if you encounter slick ice. Preventing car crashes is a matter of being alert and attentive, keeping an eye out for nearby pedestrians, and slowing down the car and increasing distances.
Practicing is also a great strategy if you have never driven in snow. If you’re not confident yet, get a friend, colleague or neighbor to help you practice.
Slips, Trips & Falls
With the number of slip, trip and fall injuries increasing in number in the winter, prevention, and protection are important. There are a few precautions that can make things better for workers and prevent them from sustaining serious injuries.
These are as follows:
- Paying close attention to where you step. Whether you’re walking on concrete on your way to work or stepping in snow, be deliberate with your footing.
- The right footwear is essential for avoiding winter workplace injuries. Insulated and water-resistant boots with high-quality rubber treads work well. Keeping snow boots or rubber overshoes in your car is a good idea too.
- Black ice is treacherous, whether you’re driving or walking. It forms on roads and sidewalks after freezing rain or when the snow melts and refreezes. Learn how to recognize it and how to maneuver around it.
- Remain cautious even when indoors; specifically in entrances and foyer areas as people bring in snow with their shoes.
In the case you do trip, make sure you go limp, keep wrists, elbows, and knees bent, tuck in your chin, and protect your head with your arms. This can minimize your injury.
Exposure to Cold
Working outdoors in the cold without proper protection and prolonged exposure can cause the body’s skin temperature to drop. When the internal body’s temperature drops, it caused heat to escape even more rapidly.
If not taken care of right away, this exposure can cause frostbite, hypothermia and/or trench foot. Each of these can cause serious complications and even permanent damage. Preventative precautions include:
The less exposure to the cold your body has, the better protected it will be. There are 3 levels of layers you can wear depending on where you live and the temperature.
- The first layer is the closest to your skin. A shirt made of wicking material will keep the sweat away and keep the body dry.
- A wool or fleece shirt/cardigan will work great for the second or middle layer.
- The outer or third layer is what you can change depending on how cold it is. Generally, a nylon-type material is most suitable as it blocks the wind. However, this can be changed to another thick woolen material.
Protecting other parts of your body
While layering covers most of your body, there are other parts to protect as well. Gloves, face masks, socks, and hats should be added as needed. Gloves and socks are to be paid special attention to as they prevent frostbite and trench foot.
In addition to clothing, other tips include removing wet and damp clothing as it prevents your body temperature from dropping rapidly. Also, drink warm beverages and take breaks to warm up your body.
Winters can be very hard and treacherous for people who have work in blistering winds and snow. However, with the right precautions taken into consideration, you can protect yourself from workplace injuries.
Another thing to keep in mind is that this list is not exhaustive. While it provides tips that are important, there are other preventative actions you can take depending on the nature of work you’re involved with.
GSC On-Site Services performs a complete job analysis that can address indicators that might lead to a possible workplace injury in winter. If you’re an employer, these considerations safeguard your employees and can prevent a potential lawsuit.
Find out more about how you can address workplace safety here.