Winter Wonderland? Or Hazard Trap?

The approaching winter can mean weather woes for you and your workforce. Because the week of November 10–14 is Winter Hazard Awareness Week, you’ll probably want to emphasize some winter safety tips in safety meetings next week. Here are some suggestions from our Safety Training Tips editor.

Keep your workers safely on their feet. Preventing slips and falls is a major concern for everyone when outdoor surfaces are wet or icy, and slippery under foot. Here are some suggestions to help your employees prevent falls and possible injuries:

  • Wear appropriate footwear with nonslip soles on wet, icy, or snowy days.
  • Take extra care when walking on wet, icy, or snow-covered walkways. Walk slowly and slide your feet on slippery surfaces. Avoid turning sharply when you walk on a slippery surface.
  • Hold onto the railing when using outdoor stairways.
  • Be especially careful when carrying packages, equipment, materials, etc.
  • Wipe your feet when entering a building so that your wet soles won’t cause you to slip on indoor flooring.
  • If you slip and start to fall, limit your injuries by bending your elbows and knees and using your legs and arms to absorb the fall.
  • Or roll into the fall, if that’s more appropriate.  

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Make sure they’re safe on the road, too. Whether employees drive on the job or just commute to and from work, safe driving during the winter months is a major safety concern. Remind workers of these safe winter driving tips:

  • Carry snow and ice removal equipment and traction materials in your vehicle, including a container of sand or cat litter for traction; an ice scraper, snow brush, and snow shovel; and a blanket to keep warm while waiting for help after a breakdown.
  • Clear snow and ice off windshield, windows, hood, roof, and lights before driving.
  • Use windshield wipers and defroster to keep windows clear while driving.
  • Reduce speed and stay at least 4 seconds behind the driver in front in wet, icy, or snowy conditions.
  • Brake gradually, pumping your brakes gently to slow down. (With anti-lock braking systems (ABS), however, drivers should apply steady pressure to the brake pedal during the entire stop. ABS will automatically pump the brakes, if necessary, to keep the wheels from locking.)
  • Watch out for icy patches. Bridges tend to ice up faster than other road surfaces. Shady spots stay icy longer. Winter roads are most dangerous when the temperature is just above freezing, since ice and snow melt, leaving a wet surface on top that is especially slippery.
  • If you start to skid, take your foot off the gas and steer gently into the skid. Keep your foot off the brake.
  • Watch out for other drivers. Many people drive poorly in snow or ice.
Share these safe snow removal tips. Whether employees must remove snow at home or at work, and whether they use a shovel or a snow thrower, there are a number of safety rules to keep in mind. Snow shoveling can be hazardous to your heart if you are out of shape, if you smoke, or if the snow is very deep or heavy. Heavy, wet snow can also be a killer on your back. Remind employees of these snow-shoveling safety tips:

•   Bend your knees to fill your shovel and then lift with your legs, not your back.
•   Don’t twist your body when you toss the snow from the shovel.
•   Take only a little snow with each shovel load if the snow is heavy.
•   Take frequent breaks to rest and stretch your back.
•   Don’t overexert. Get help if the snow is extremely heavy or deep.
•   Be sure to sand icy walkways, stairways, and ramps immediately.

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For employees who clear snow at work or at home with a snow thrower, emphasize these safety tips:

•   Inspect the path you intend to clear and move foreign objects out of the way.
•   Never remove or disable safety features such as guards, shields, or deflectors.
•   Keep children and pets away from the area, and stop working if someone passes by on foot.
•   Keep face, hands, feet, and clothing away from concealed, moving, or rotating parts.
•   Never clear the discharge chute with the engine running.
•   Shut the engine off and remove the key when you leave the equipment unattended.
•   Don’t fill the fuel tank while the engine is hot or running.

Why It Matters…

  • Winter weather hazards result in numerous health problems every year, including broken bones and back injuries from falls, heart attacks from shoveling snow, amputations from snow throwers and other mechanical snow removal equipment, and fatalities from road accidents.
  • Injured employees may be out of work for days or weeks.
  • Depending on the severity of injuries, medical costs can run into the thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars per employee. 


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