With winter right around the corner, it’s a good time to go over best practices to help insureds keep their employees safe as temperatures cool down and Mother Nature delivers snow and other inclement weather. Not only should employers do all they can to prevent work-related accidents and injuries, but by doing so they will also be mitigating potential Workers’ Compensation claims that arise from winter-work hazards. Whether workers are delivery drivers, construction workers, groundskeepers, or are involved in a myriad of other work tasks, employers can help them stay safe and healthy by passing along these tips.
- Clear ice and snow from parking lots, walkways, and entries. Ensure employees entering the building can do so without slip/trip/fall hazards. De-icer/salt should be used in common areas to mitigate ice, and good weather mats should be placed in entrance points to soak up water/wetness and limit slip & fall activity. Workers such as delivery drivers or those who help load vehicles should be instructed to wear footwear with good traction, such as slip-resistant shoes or boots. In fact, for all other workers, you might suggest that they keep a pair of rubber overshoes with good treads that fit over their street shoes at their desk or in their locker during the winter months.
- Shovel snow safely.Snow shoveling is a strenuous activity, not only because cold weather can be taxing on the body, but there’s also the potential for back injuries, exhaustion or heart attacks. Use proper lifting techniques, including keeping the back straight, lifting with the legs and not turning or twisting the body when shoveling. Employees should wear a hat and gloves and cover open skin areas to prevent frostbite in extreme cold temperature situations. In addition, heavy socks should be utilized by workers outside to protect the feet. Workers should also be encouraged to take frequent breaks in warm areas.
- Use snow removal equipment.If a business uses powered equipment such as snow blowers, remind workers to ensure that the equipment is properly grounded in order to protect themselves from electric shocks or electrocutions. During equipment maintenance or cleaning, the equipment should be properly guarded and disconnected from power sources. Snow blowers should be refueled before starting the machine. Never add fuel when the equipment is running or when the engine is hot.
- Promote safe winter driving. Although employers can’t control roadway conditions, they can help ensure that their workers recognize the hazards of winter-weather driving and are properly trained for driving or operating equipment on snow or icy roads. Ensure fluids are full in vehicles, especially windshield wiper fluid and heating/coolant fluids.
- Vehicle maintenance. It’s also particularly important during winter months that employers implement an ongoing maintenance program for all vehicles and mechanized equipment that workers are required to operate. Be sure employees are properly trained to inspect vehicle systems (brakes, tires and the exhaust system) to determine they’re working properly, making immediate repairs in the event they aren’t.
Prep emergency kits. On-the-road workers who are out in winter weather should carry emergency kits that include the following: cell phone or two-way radio; windshield ice scraper, snow brush and shovel; flashlight with extra batteries; tow chain; traction aids (bag of sand or cat litter); emergency flares and first-aid kit; jumper cables; snacks and water; road maps; and blankets and a change of clothes.