The winter season, especially in Wisconsin, can be a hazardous time of year for both businesses and their employees. Injuries that happen in this season are not just limited to outdoor workers. Simply walking into or out of work or occasionally performing tasks like shoveling sidewalks or spreading salt at an entry can quickly become hazardous. Companies should reinforce their safety practices and involve their employees when attempting to identify hazards. Once identified, the organizations can brainstorm how to mitigate the unique winter hazards that can be encountered in the workplace.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
When it comes to determining the most common winter hazards, companies and employees tend to focus on mitigating slips, trips, and falls. Encourage employees to wear footwear with good traction even if that means changing into a different pair once they are in the building. Also, by walking slower and taking small steps they can better react if they suddenly step on a slippery spot. Companies should make a concerted effort to keep walkways and parking lots free of snow and ice build-up to ensure safe pathways for both employees and visitors.
Driving in Winter Weather
Encourage employees to clear their car of snow and ice, including their lights, hood, and tires. Practicing safe winter driving strategies like checking that vehicle tires are properly inflated, accelerating and decelerating slowly, and giving other vehicles on the road extra space. It is also good for all drivers to know what to do if their vehicle breaks downs. Having a winter weather emergency kit (that include traction aids like sand or cat litter, blankets, hand/foot warmers, and tow chains etc.) can keep drivers and passengers safe during cold weather until help arrives.
Frostbite and Hypothermia
Being outside in the winter, whether for work or play, can be dangerous if you and your employees aren’t mindful of the risks of cold temperatures. Prolonged exposure to low temperatures, moisture, and/or wind can put you at risk for frostbite and hypothermia. Before going outside in the winter, it is important to check the temperature and limit employees’ time outdoors if it is exceptionally cold, wet, or windy. If is suspected that someone is suffering from either of these cold weather conditions, seek medical attention immediately.
Office Space Heaters
Office buildings can be notoriously cold in the winter months which can lead to employees bringing in portable space heaters. These types of heaters are a fire hazard if they are not used correctly. Ensure that the heaters are not placed near cabinets, tables, curtains, or other materials that can catch fire. When they are not in use, they should be unplugged.
Other Cold Weather Work Hazards
While the previously listed hazards can be primary focuses in the workplace, it is important to note if there are any hazards that may specific to the company or in specific work areas. Some examples of other winter weather hazards can be: using powered snow removal machines and working from heights on potentially icy surfaces.
Winter weather can be unpredictable and can put stress on the company and employees because of the hazards it creates. Having a proactive approach to mitigating and eliminating those hazards shows that safety is a priority on all levels of the organization.