Winter is here. Winter can be both beautiful and brutal. For those of us who have to get in the face the snow and ice covered roads or work in extreme temperatures, the task can be daunting. Use these best practices to ensure you and your employees arrive to their destinations safely and are prepared for cold temperatures.
Driving - Safe winter driving begins before you get in the vehicle.
Tires and Maintenance: No one wants to be stranded, but in the below freezing temperatures a breakdown can quickly become an emergency.
- Ensure that your tires are in good condition and properly inflated.
- Consider the use of snow tires. Regardless of the type of tire, check the tread depth. A life hack is to use a penny. Hold the penny upside down in the tread, if you can see the top of Honest Abe’s head, it is time to change your tires.
- Keep up with your regular maintenance. Cold weather can drain a battery of its power. Check your belts, hoses, lights, brakes, wipers and defroster.
- Ensure your windshield washer fluid is rated for sub-freezing temperatures.
- Keep your fuel tank full, you never know when you will get stuck in traffic.
- Slowing your speed will provide better control and reduce your stopping time when needed.
- Leave extra space between yourself and the car in front of you.
- If you lose control, stay calm.
- Steer into the skid.
- If you have ABS brakes, firmly press the brake and hold it (the shuddering and popping sounds are normal and part of the process). If you don’t have ABS brakes, pump the brakes to reduce your speed and maintain traction to keep from sliding further.
- If you do have an accident and can drive your vehicle into a safe location, do so. If your vehicle is inoperable, stay in the vehicle, it is the safest place to wait for help.
Emergency Situations: Ensure that you are prepared if left stranded.
- A shovel to dig vehicle out of deep snow
- Bags of sand to use around tires to increase traction when stuck in the snow
- A warm blanket
- Gloves, boots and extra clothes, preferably water resistant such as snow pants and jacket
- A flashlight
- Glow sticks and flares to increase visibility of your location
- Tow straps or chains
- Jumper cables
Working – As we anticipate the cold weather ahead, workers and employers should be prepared to keep a safe working environment.
Salt: In almost any industry, slips, trips, and falls are a major concern. According to the CDC, approximately 1 million Americans are injured annually as the result of falling on ice and snow. Take OSHA’s advice and clear walking surfaces of snow and ice, and spread deicer, as quickly as possible after a winter storm.
Cold Stress: OSHA describes the occurrence of cold stress by driving down the skin temperature, and eventually the internal body temperature. When the body is unable to warm itself, serious cold-related illnesses and injuries may occur, and permanent tissue damage and death may result. Cold stress related injuries include trench foot, frostbite, and hypothermia. It is crucial to train employees on the recognition of prevention of cold stress.
Footwear: If at all possible, avoid walking on snow or ice. If this is unavoidable, we recommend having proper footwear, walk slowly and with short steps, and be attentive at all times.
- Wear proper footwear. OSHA suggests a pair of insulated and water resistant boots with good rubber treads
- Keeping a pair of rubber over-shoes with good treads which fit over your street shoes is a good idea during the winter months.
If you haven’t already, we encourage you to prepare for these hazards now. If you would like any assistance creating, training or implementing winter weather safety policy, please reach out to your local Loss Control team.
Additional information on Winter Weather Safety:
- OSHA’s winter weather portal - https://www.osha.gov/dts/weather/winter_weather/windchill.html#coldstress
- OSHA Cold Stress Quick Card - https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3156.pdf
- NHTSA and OSHA Safe Winter Driving Handout - https://www.osha.gov/Publications/SafeDriving.pdf
- NIOSH Cold Stress Fast Facts - https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2010-115/pdfs/2010-115.pdf