As the weather changes and sunny days slowly become darker, colder and snowy, we must shift our attention from how to keep cool to how to keep employees safe in hazardous winter conditions.
There are a number of different hazards that workers face during the colder season; from slippery roads/surfaces to dangerous stresses such as hypothermia. While the weather cannot be controlled we can create safety plans to avoid as many dangerous situations as possible. Here are 6 ways to avoid those cold weather worksite hazards this season.
#1 - Involve Your Team
One of the best ways to get your entire team to apply safety guidelines is to encourage their participation in the planning and execution process. Empowering workers to recognize hazards and proactively implement fixes is one of the best and most effective methods to reduce the number of accidents at any time of the year. As the days come and go without incident people tend to become complacent, but keeping safety discussions as part of regular team updates where everyone is welcome to bring up concerns will help to remind everyone that they should continue to be vigilant.
#2 - Inspect and Repair Risk Areas
Have your team identify areas both inside and outside your facility that could become danger zones. Any area where there are cracks, holes or low spots can gather melted snow and then become dangerous when frozen or tracked indoors. Repairing these potential hazards before the snow arrives can go a long way in preventing serious injuries.
#3 - Have Enough Supplies Available
In the colder months falls are often times caused by slippery surfaces. These falls can be avoided by having enough supplies that alert (wet floors signs,) prevent (traction cleats,) and remind (safety rules signage) workers of these hazards in locations where they can be used/seen.
#4 - Use Appropriate Supplies
When it comes time to replace certain necessities the appropriate winter styles should be used when available. A great example is floor mats; for winter conditions the best ones to use are non-slip mats with rubber padding.
#5 - Implement Safe Working Practices
From requiring buddy systems to scheduling shifts during the warmest part of the day there are many simple work practices that can be implemented to minimize the occurrences of cold weather stresses. Another safety practice can be to provide extra winter wear in case workers do not have their own or simply forgot them that day.
#6 - Train Your Workers
Awareness is also one of the most effective ways to prevent cold weather incidents. The simplest way to accomplish this is for employers to train workers on how to prevent, recognize the symptoms of and treat cold induced illnesses/injuries. OSHA has created this handy cold weather Quick Card that can be provided to your workers for easy reference on cold stress. Keeping the lines of communication open and making sure they know the working practices in place to keep them safe can make a huge impact in helping to increase awareness of these dangerous exposures.
The main idea behind all the ways described is to plan ahead. Now is the time to get started on the planning so that you have enough time to apply any strategies and to obtain replacements for any supplies that need it. If you need help getting started, or just need an expert opinion, contact your local ORR Safety account manager. Our safety experts are fully trained on all the standards and can help customize your winter safety solutions.