While it’s important to maintain safe worksites and offices throughout the year, special precautions must be taken during winter months. The cold weather can lead to the deterioration of equipment, worsened road conditions and leave your employees vulnerable to injury—42,480 work injuries involved ice, sleet or snow in 2014.
When preparing your team and worksite for the winter months, keep these four measures in mind to help ensure everyone gets home safely at the end of the day:
1. Take precautions against falls, slips and trips. As paths get icier in the colder months, make sure your team knows of the hazards and how to prepare for them. Out of the 5,190 fatal work injuries in the United States in 2016, 849 of the fatalities were caused by falls, slips and trips.
- Clean up spills immediately—and put up proper signage in the meantime
- Keep walkways free of debris and snow
- Ensure walkways are well lit
- Ask workers to wear safe, well-fitted footwear
2. Know the signs of cold weather exposure—and encourage your employees to report it if they experience the symptoms of hypothermia or frostbite. Cold weather is a danger that’s easy to overlook, but cold weather is twenty times as deadly as hot weather.
3. Communicate the safety precautions with your team. Safety measures are only useful if they are followed—make sure your team knows the precautions you’ve implemented and why they’re important.
- Post signage in hazardous areas
- Communicate the Emergency Action Plan
- Remind everyone of best practices
- Monitor the weather and any potential winter storms—and keep your workers informed
- Encourage employees to take regular breaks and employ the buddy system
4. Maintain the site’s heavy equipment. Equipment must be in optimal working order to operate smoothly during colder months. Perform routine maintenance to ensure heavy equipment runs safely: Check the filters; check the battery; check fluids, hoses and seals; check the tires; check the lights and wipes; check the heater and defroster; lubricate moving parts and warm up on start.