Slips, trips and falls make up the larger part of common workplace accidents. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA), they are the cause of 15 percent of all accidental fatalities and are second only to motor vehicle accidents. Winter weather brings hazards including slippery roads, sidewalks and other surfaces, strong winds and environmental cold.
OSHA, in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are working together to help educate the public about how to prepare for and respond to severe weather conditions. In addition, they are working together to help businesses and their workers prepare for winter weather and provide information about possible hazards that workers may face during and after a winter storm.
In addition to slips, trips and falls, cold stress is another concern. Cold stress can lead to hypothermia or frostbite. Outdoor workers are especially vulnerable to cold stress. It’s important to include all staff in your safety plan to encourage a strong culture of safety but also allow for open dialog that leads to continuous improvement.
While slips, trips and falls happen year-round, rainy, snowy and icy weather create a more hazardous environment that increases the risk of worker injuries. Here are ten ways to minimize the potential for injuries due to winter weather conditions.
- Create a proactive safety plan that addresses slips, trips and fall.
- Employers need to prevent ice build-up on walkways through de-icing efforts and clearing walkways. Parking areas and outside break areas are often the most overlooked.
- Make sure snow build up doesn’t block your employees’ pathways
- Keep walkways, stairways and other areas clean
- Remove hazards immediately, such as water on the floor.
- Mark hazardous areas by providing a temporary sign, cones or barricades to warn workers.
- Encourage employees to not carry heavy loads that may compromise their balance.
- Wear footwear that is appropriate for the weather, such as boots with treads for increase traction. Walk on a grassy area if the sidewalk or roadway is icy.
- Know the signs of hypothermia and frostbite.
Signs of hypothermia include:
- Shivering or shaking
- Lack of coordination
- Drowsiness or confusion
- Slurred speech
Signs of frostbite include:
- Skin that is very cold and becomes numb. May look pale and the skin may harden.
- Blisters or swelling
- Joint or muscle stiffness
10. Take safety precautions
It’s important to evaluate potential winter-related hazards in your workplace and determine ways to mitigate the risks. Regularly monitor the work environment and make sure all employees have the necessary safety equipment or gear needed to be protected.
It is vitally important that the lines of communication remain open between staff and supervisors. Effective communication involves two-way directional flow of input, feedback and sharing in order to better understand and improve safety program.
When business leaders take the time to listen to their workers’ perspectives and insights it upholds the company’s values of safety as an important organizational goal.
For more information on how to prepare for and prevent winter-related workplace hazards, contact your local Marsh & McLennan Agency (MMA) representative.