The winter months can bring virtually any kind of weather, and you don’t want to be unprepared when cold, wet weather hits your worksite. While each season has its own set of issues, winter is the most unpredictable and potentially dangerous time of the year.
High winds, cold rain, snow, ice, sleet… a lot can happen that can affect the well being of everyone on a worksite – especially if you or your team work outside.
What are some things that you can do to be safe while working outdoors this winter to protect yourself and your team, keep insurance premiums down, and keep your profitability up?
Main Winter Safety Hazards
In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 42,40 workplace injuries involving ice, sleet, or snow. 34,860 of these injuries were due to falls on the same level suggesting slippery conditions were the main culprit.
Hypothermia and frost are always of main concern when there is prolonged exposure to the cold. However, there are many other risks that contractors face as well:
Ice or Slippery Walkways
Always ensure that walkways are free of ice or slippery conditions. This includes sidewalks, non-paved walking paths, driveways, stairs, and scaffolding.
Shoveling snow can be one of the most dangerous of winter hazards. For one, snow shoveling can be more strenuous than exercising on a treadmill if you’re not in shape. It can cause a fast increase in blood pressure and heart rate, and cold air causes a restriction of blood vessels and decrease of oxygen to the heart. As a result, a heart attack can become possible.
Always check to ensure your snowblower is grounded to prevent electrocution. If the equipment is jammed, also turn off the snowblower as cuts and amputations are known issues with snow blowers. Also, never add gas when the snowblower is on – this is extremely dangerous and can lead to a fire from a hot engine if gas spilled on or near it.
Heavy snow or ice, with or without high winds, can cause trees to fall down. When trees fall down, especially on roadways or near vital access areas, downed trees must be removed. Hazards can include electrocution, falling branches or ice, and slips.
Best Winter Safety Practices
To protect workers from injuries, illnesses, or fatalities:
- Create work plans that identify hazards and safety precautions on the worksite.
- Schedule as much outside work as possible for warmer weather.
- Schedule work outside during the warmest times of the day.
- Limit the time outdoors during extremely cold days.
- Provide warm areas for breaks.
- Keep warm liquids on hand to drink.
- Monitor the weather conditions before and during a winter storm and call off work when necessary.
- Provide a means of communication with workers – especially in remote areas.
- Wear proper winter weather clothing.
For a list of proper clothing and other winter considerations, click here to visit OSHA’s winter weather preparedness suggestions