Winter-Proof Your Workplace to Prevent Employee Injuries
With nearly three months of winter left, it’s not too late to protect your employees from weather-related threats. Wintertime workplace injuries are some of the most common sources of worker compensation payouts, legal costs, and OSHA violations.
These injuries come in several forms, including slips, trips, and falls, auto accidents, hypothermia, frostbite, and heart attacks. Manufacturers need to be prepared to address factors such as slippery roads/surfaces, strong winds, and environmental cold to prevent illnesses, injuries, and fatalities.
Here are five common winter-weather employee safety threats and steps you can take to improve their safety.
- Slips, Trips, and Falls
This category of injuries is usually top of mind for winter-weather safety training. However, workplace slips, trips, and falls happen year-round and are responsible for nearly 16 million injuries each year. They are the second leading cause of fatalities on the job and the third leading cause of employee disability. And they remain among the most common reasons for lawsuits, OSHA penalties, and hits on productivity. To help prevent these injuries from occurring, teach employees to be aware of their surroundings and to call out dangers when they see them. Ensure surfaces from the parking lot to the front door and beyond are clear of water, ice, and snow. Have employees wear footwear that offers good traction and insulation.
- Heart Attacks
Over-exertion in cold weather can easily lead to heart attacks. If you have employees who work outdoors, keep tabs on their conditions, just as you might if they were conducting strenuous work outdoors during the summer. Teach employees the symptoms of a heart attack, like shortness of breath, chest pain, or other symptoms. And enable them to have the means to call for help immediately.
When workers can be confronted with long-term exposure to sub-freezing temperatures, their body temperatures can drop below 95 Fahrenheit. That’s when hypothermia sets in, and the body ceases to regulate its internal temperatures. Try to limit your employees’ exposure to freezing conditions and observe them for uncontrollable shivering and confusion.
Constant exposure to the cold can also result in frostbite, causing permanent damage to the body as skin, nerves, and tissue freeze. The hands, feet, ears, and nose are especially vulnerable to frostbite. Avoid long-term exposure and provide employees with the proper clothing to keep them warm. Be on the lookout for the first signs of frostbite, like numbness, clumsiness, and cold skin, which can discolor or turn black.
- Driver Safety
Wintertime is one of the busiest and most stressful times for commercial drivers as they face weeks of dangerous roads and unpredictable winter weather. Bad weather brings a range of troubles for drivers as they struggle to maintain control of their trucks in parking lots and on slippery roads. They have to navigate around unpredictable and panicky drivers. And they’re forced to take extra precautions to avoid injuries every time they step outside their vehicles.
Protect your drivers by starting with a pre-trip inspection. Take 10 extra minutes to prepare for bad weather to prevent hours of misery on the road. Check the basics, like making sure batteries will hold a charge, brakes are in good condition, chains are solid, and tire treads are above the required minimum standards.
All of this should be reinforced through timely training on winter hazards. More info on driver-specific fleet safety training is available here.
You can help ensure your drivers are ready by rehearsing winter maneuvers like turning into skids, using three points of contact when entering/exiting the vehicle, and increasing the following distance when visibility turns bad. Also, confirm they know how to install tire chains, brake and turn on slippery roads, and handle a skid.
When the temperatures get frosty, it’s cool to train and educate your employees to work safely in the cold. Contact us to learn more about winter workplace safety training programs.