Don’t Let Winter Catch You Off Guard

Written by Daniel Aday, CompOne Administrators Safety & Loss Prevention Specialist

With winter just around the corner, it is best to ensure that all safety measures are in place before a snow storm hits, the temperature drops or pavement starts icing over. According to the Farmer’s Almanac for the 2020-2021 winter, Michigan is expected to receive a colder and snowier winter than usual, which tends to lead to more incidents within (or outdoors of) the workplace.

For companies and businesses with company vehicles – do full inspections on your vehicles before winter hits. Ensure wiper fluids are topped off every few weeks, inspect wiper blades, see if brakes have plenty of wear left on them, the coolant levels are sufficient, and if your company is able to, switch over all company vehicles’ tires to winter tires. Winter tires are not just for driving in the deeper snow; winter tires perform better when temperatures drop below 45 degrees, even when there is no snow or ice on the road. While all-season tires do well in winter, they do not compare to how great winter tires perform below 45 degrees, and could easily save your employees from getting into an accident or spinning off the road. Lastly, ensure all employees in company vehicles have emergency bags with gloves, blankets, some food and other emergency supplies, in the event of a car breaking down or being stranded in a winter storm.

Slip and falls on ice are among the most common injuries during winter and among the easiest to prevent by just taking a few preventative steps! If you have employees coming onsite or to a jobsite, ensure salt is readily available before the first signs of freezing temperatures. Remember – even if it does not snow or rain, there still could be chances of ice as long as temperatures drop below 32 degrees. Fix any leaky gutters or downspouts as this is a common culprit, resulting in icy pavement. Designate someone, if services are not already contracted out, to monitor the weather and salt the day before any freezing temperatures are predicted. If work is performed at a jobsite or offsite, ensure that salt is available in all company vehicles. Office employees typically dress for the day they spend inside, which is why you should encourage winter boots or shoes with good traction are worn to and from their vehicles. Remember – if you find yourself having to step or walk on ice: walk like a penguin and keep your body mass over your feet!

Working outside can be very enjoyable but it also adds another element of safety concern. The most obvious safety concerns are frostbite and hypothermia. While frostbite can only occur below the freezing point, hypothermia can take place in temperatures up to 60 degrees if in water, or 50 degrees if wet (from either sweating or from work activities) and windy. What may happen is a worker builds up body heat while moving around, begins to sweat and then removes their outer layers. When that worker cools down, during a break or once work is completed, the sweat then starts to chill the body into a hypothermic state and cause health effects. It is best to remove layers before sweating occurs and then reapply layers once work is finished. The key to working in cold is to dress in layers.

Additionally, extremities are most susceptible to frostbite – good socks, shoes and working gloves must be chosen with extras available in case a glove gets damaged or goes missing.
Take the time now to plan ahead before the weather gets too bad. It is a good idea to train outside workers every late spring on heat hazards and mid to late fall on cold-weather hazards. Include in your training the signs and symptoms of cold-related injuries and what to do to prevent these.

As with all articles we publish, if you have any safety-related questions on this topic or anything else, please feel free to give me a call at 734-309-3456 or send me an email at daday@compone.net. We can come on-site and perform site-specific audits, hands-on training, accident investigation, and anything else from a safety and loss standpoint.

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