Preparation and Safety Measures During Colder Months
While safety is a key concern all year long, colder weather conditions can present additional hazards for anyone working outside. Outdoor work requires proper preparation, especially in harsh winter weather conditions. Colder weather can increase hazards such as slippery surfaces, environmental challenges and health concerns.
OSHA does not have definitive standards for working in cold environments, but employers must be alert and proactive in their responsibilities to provide workers with safe working conditions that are free from recognized hazards, including winter weather related concerns.
Winter weather not only has the potential to increase slips, trips and falls, but colder weather conditions can also increase the chances for illness. Cold temperatures can play a huge role on an employee’s overall health, but this can also increase the chances of accidental injuries by altering an employee’s self-awareness from simply being tired and fatigued to feeling ill or being extremely sick.
Winter also increases the chances of harsh environmental circumstances such as increase wind strength, and iced over walk ways, roads, handrails among many other safe access points. It’s imperative that your employees are fully alert, healthy and understand the situation of their surroundings.
Safe work practices should be implemented to protect employees, from possible injuries, illnesses and/or fatalities. Some key components for the proactive preparation of winter months are:
- Develop and review your safety processes and plans, identify potential hazards and the safety measures that will be used all year round, but also identify winter related processes separately
- Schedule maintenance and repair needs during the warmer parts of the year
- Map out and provide proper awareness for all areas that could be exposed to freezing conditions causing higher risk for slips, trips and falls
- Provide employees all the proper tools needed to combat freezing/cold weather conditions
- Schedule operational needs that expose workers to the colder weather in warmer parts of the day
- Avoid exposure to freezing temperatures when possible
- Monitor and manage employees time spent outdoors on extremely cold days, especially for long periods of time
- Regularly schedule breaks and/or relief to workers for long, demanding jobs in harsh weather
- Provide warm areas for break periods
- Provide warm, non-alcoholic, liquids to employees
- Monitor workers who are at risk of illnesses
- Monitor the weather conditions regularly, be aware of possible winter storms, keep your team updated
- Send employees home seem to be getting ill, have them rest
- Have an effective and reliable way of communicating with workers and being able to stop work when necessary
These areas are crucial factors to consider and plan around during the entire year, but employees must be fully aware of how winter weather can present additional safety concerns to their health, the health of others and their overall working conditions. OSHA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have been working together on a public education effort to improve the way people prepare for and respond to severe weather. This page is designed to help businesses and their workers prepare for winter weather, and to provide information about hazards that workers may face during and after winter storms.
For any questions, concerns or to learn more about what you can do to provide your workplace with the safest possible solutions during winter months and all year round, feel free to give Hemco Industries a call. We’d be more than happy to assist you in your fall protection needs and to help keep all your workers safe from falls.
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