Winter weather does more than complicate your commute to work or make you wish you were still under the covers. It also presents hazards on the job site, whether you’re operating a company vehicle, working close to downed power lines, or simply shoveling snow. That’s why the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has winter weather safety guidelines in place that all employers and employees should be aware of. Here, we take a closer look at OSHA’s recommended precautions for staying safe during the winter and beating cold stress.
Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls
No matter the type of site, snow and ice present an increased risk of slips, trips, and falls. When walking on treacherous surfaces is unavoidable, OSHA urges workers to take the necessary precautions. These include wearing footwear with ideal traction and insulation for winter conditions, as well as removing snow and ice from frequented surfaces as soon as possible. They should also take short, slow steps to maintain their balance and traction when walking on snow or ice.
In addition, extra precautions must be taken if employees are removing snow from rooftops and other elevated surfaces. Workers must receive fall protection and training, ensure ladders are clear of snow and ice, and practice the utmost caution near power lines. When removing snow and ice from any area, it’s important to avoid overexposure to frigid temperatures, and spreading deicer is always recommended.
Practicing Safe Winter Driving
It’s no secret that snow, ice, and wind can create dangerous conditions on the roads, as well as present drivers with challenges in handling the vehicle. One of the most important precautions to take when it comes to safe winter driving is ensuring that workers are trained in inspecting the vehicle before operation. Many components must be examined to ensure they’re working properly, including:
- Cooling, electrical, exhaust, and visibility systems
Along with hazardous road conditions comes the risk of workers being stranded in a vehicle. Should this occur, it’s essential to be prepared with an emergency kit readily available in each vehicle. OSHA recommends including items such as a cell phone or two-way radio, flashlight, extra batteries, snow removal equipment, tow chains, emergency flares, water, nonperishable snacks, blankets, and more.
Beating Cold Stress
Another risk workers face during the wintertime is cold stress, a term referring to the effects that freezing temperatures, wind chill, and wetness or dampness have on the body. Cold stress occurs when the body loses heat and is unable to warm back up, causing illnesses and injuries such as frostbite, trench foot, and hypothermia.
All employers should train their workers on how to recognize conditions that may cause cold stress, as well as what to do if cold stress develops. Selecting proper clothing for the weather, taking frequent breaks in dry, warm areas, and drinking warm, sweet, alcohol-free beverages are some of the easiest precautions workers can take. Employers should also monitor their employees’ physical condition, urge them to work in pairs, and provide space heaters when possible.
Furthering Your Knowledge
The best defense against the job site hazards associated with winter weather is the knowledge of how to handle them. To prepare employers and employees for working safely during the winter and keeping cold stress at bay, ClickSafety offers an introductory, three-part online course called Winter Weather Hazards Toolbox Talk. Part 1 covers staying safe during winter, Part 2 covers working in the snow, and Part 3 covers working with damaged power lines and downed trees. For more information, contact ClickSafety today.