Winterizing your workplace is the best way to prevent injuries like slips, trips, and falls. To promote workplace safety during winter, reduce slippery surfaces, train workers on winter driving, minimize cold exposure, and have a communications plan. Get your employees to help you design the ideal winter safety plan for your business.
Winter workplace injuries
Every winter, there is a significant spike in work-related injuries. More recently, there were 42,480 workplace injuries and illnesses involving ice, sleet, or snow, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number includes only those events that caused employees to miss at least one day of work and that were reported to the bureau. Clearly, if you’re a business owner, it’s smart to take precautions against cold weather injuries.
Create a winter safety plan
If you operate a business, you know the importance of promoting safety in your workplace. Depending on the size of your workforce and your industry, you may be required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or by your state regulators to have a safety plan in place. However, even if you are not required to show proof of your safety plan you should still have one. As a business owner, not only does practicing workplace safety protect the members of your team, it also protects your bottom line.
When you put together your workplace safety plan, don’t forget to consider the additional risks caused by rain, sleet, and snow. Set aside some work time and call a meeting so that all of your employees can help establish or reevaluate your safety plan.
Ask your employees to help
OSHA, the U.S. entity that protects and regulates workplace safety, recommends enlisting the help of your employees when you create a plan. Having your team members help is key. They often:
- Know the most about the hazards of their own jobs
- Have the most to gain or lose based on your safety program
- Can help create, implement, evaluate, and improve the program
- Will gain a sense of ownership and buy-in with the program
Winter safety tips
To effectively winterize your workplace, you should gather your employees and ask them to consider all aspects of their workday. Work together to brainstorm potential winter hazards they may experience while at work and on the way to and from the workplace. Write out all their ideas. Next, group the hazards into categories so that you can create a winter safety plan that is catered specifically to your business. Do not forget to consider the different environments your employees work in, such as the office, warehouse, vehicles, roads, or field.
Safety tips to get you started
Address slippery areas
- De-ice parking lots, sidewalks, entryways, and outdoor break areas
- Reroute people using caution signs, rope, cones, or tape
- Put mats down over slippery spots
- Mop up any standing water, especially on tile or marble
- Set aside a place for wet umbrellas, raincoats, and shoes
Set up a communications plan
- Monitor severe weather announcements
- Set up a call tree or send a group text message and email blast with weather updates
- Consider canceling work, adjusting hours, or asking employees to work remotely
- Ensure you have a way to connect with workers in the field if severe weather arrives
Promote winter driving safety
- Train employees who operate work vehicles on best practices for winter driving
- Supply work vehicles with ice scrapers, tire chains, emergency kits, and shovels
- When possible, cancel tasks that require driving until bad weather clears
Minimize cold exposure
- Have outdoor workers take breaks and work shorter shifts
- Rotate employees to reduce individual time in the cold
- Set up outdoor heaters
- Save routine, non-essential tasks for warmer months
Provide education about cold stress
- Teach workers that cold stress keeps the body from being able to regulate temperature
- Discuss how cold stress can lead to hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot
- Advise that people with diabetes, hypothyroidism, or hypertension are more vulnerable
- Request that employees dress in loose-fitting layers of clothing
- Ask employees to stretch and warm up before working in the cold
Practice office safety
- Ensure that space heaters are used properly and kept away from flammable materials
- Unplug all space heaters when not in use
- Decorate for holidays wisely – don’t use candles or hang decor on fire sprinklers
- Use caution with ladders and extension cords when decorating
Winterize your building
- Set faucets to drip to avoid frozen pipes
- Inspect and repair indoor and outdoor insulation
- Have your HVAC system checked and maintained
With some deliberate planning and participation from your whole team, you can successfully winterize your workplace for safety. Use the opportunity to boost morale and refocus as you face the colder weather months.
Thanks for reading! Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only. As best practices change regularly, you should refer to your trusted advisor for specific counsel. If you’re a small business owner, learn more about workplace safety or check your workers’ comp rate in 3 minutes.