Out of the four seasons, winter is particularly hazardous when it comes to workplace injuries – especially when working during or after a snow storm. To keep workers safe during the colder months, the Occupational Health and Safety Organization recommends employees take note of some important safety tips.
Top Wintertime Working Hazards
Cold weather, unfortunately, causes many different hazards including:
- Icy roads and surfaces, whether a job involves driving or walking outdoors
- Frostbite on exposed parts of the face or hands
- Hypothermia due to being inadequately dressed
- Dehydration from performing vigorous, physically demanding work
Dangers of Heavy Snow
Heavy snowfalls also bring their own set of dangers. Roofs often collapse under the weight of snow, and workers can easily fall when using ladders or lifts to clear snow from roofs – or even if they’re standing on the roof itself. OSHA suggests taking smaller scoops and using proper lifting techniques so you don’t lose your balance. Heavy snow can also snap power lines, and OSHA recommends that workers who come upon downed power lines should assume they’re live.
Even a task as simple as shoveling a walkway can put enough strain on the body to cause a heart attack. And while a snow blower can make the job easier, clearing clogged augers has resulted in lacerated hands and fingers. It’s important to turn off the snow blower or make sure it’s in neutral before clearing out the chute.
Winter Precautions Employers Need to Take
It’s important for employers to do their job to not only avoid unnecessary injuries during the winter months, but costly workers’ compensation claims as well. These include:
- Clearing driveways, walkways and other ground surfaces near the business
- Establishing and marking work zones for outdoor workers
- Providing reflective clothing for workers
- Keeping ladders in safe working order
- Requiring use of fall protection equipment, especially when working on roofs
- Limiting the amount of outdoor working time and offer frequent breaks during periods of extreme cold
Hopefully, employees and employers alike who take extra care will help to reduce the amount of work related injuries sustained during the winter months and year round.