Preparing for Winter Work Hazards | EMPLOYERS Insurance
How can inclement weather impact your business?
While workplace safety should be a year-round priority, winter weather conditions like snow, ice and heavy rain mean business owners need to pay extra attention to keep the workplace safe. Inclement weather can increase safety hazards that could put workers at risk for serious injury.
Here are three workplace risks that can increase during the colder months, as well as practical ways you can address them.
- Slips, trips and falls. Winter weather conditions pose risks to businesses. Snow, rain and freezing temperatures can create pools of slush or patches of ice at business entryways. Wet and slippery floors can be hazardous to employees and patrons. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests taking the following steps to reduce the likelihood of a slip, trip or fall:
- Clear walking surfaces quickly and frequently, and spread a deicer or traction improver such as cat litter to reduce slick spots.
- Recommend employees wear proper footwear, like insulated and water-resistant boots with good rubber treads.
- Strongly encourage workers to walk slowly and take shorter steps in order to be able to react quickly in case of traction loss.
- Clearing snow. Shoveling snow can be strenuous and exhausting, and can put workers at risk for back injuries, dehydration, or in extreme cases, a heart attack. OSHA recommends the following precautions:
- Colder weather adds extra stress to the body, so workers should be encouraged to take frequent breaks and warm up properly.
- Push snow with a shovel instead of lifting it.
- If workers use power tools, like snow blowers, make sure the equipment is in good working order and that electrical cords show no sign of wear. Worn-out cords can increase the risk of electrocution.
- Vehicle safety. If your employees operate a vehicle as part of their jobs, make sure they understand the importance of safe winter driving. OSHA recommends:
- Inspect vehicles before winter by checking the battery, windshield wipers and tire treads to ensure they are in good working order.
- Stocking an emergency car kit with a flashlight, jumper cables, shovel, flares, water, blankets and non-perishable snacks in case workers become stranded.
Even if workers do not operate a vehicle as part of their jobs, many may drive to and from work, putting them at risk of getting into a collision or being stranded. Depending on your business, consider adjusting hours of operation, closing altogether, or allowing employees to take leave using vacation time or unpaid leave.
The well-being of your employees should always be a priority. Injuries to employees can reduce productivity and potentially increase workers’ compensation insurance-related costs. By taking precautionary steps to reduce the likelihood of worker injury or illness, business owners can keep their businesses safe and protect their most valuable asset – their employees.