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Winter Weather Safety

Slips, trips, and falls are the leading category in causes of injuries and fatalities in the workplace. According to OSHA, slip, trip, and fall incidents cause 15% of all accidental deaths and are second only to motor vehicle accidents as a cause of fatalities on the job. Snow, sleet, and ice greatly increase the chances for slip, trip, and fall incidents to occur.

  • Remove trip hazards before snow or ice conditions are present. This eliminates someone tripping over a buried object after the snow or ice hits
  • Shovel and salt parking lots and walkways prior to beginning work in that area. Prep walkways before workers get on-site in the morning. Report to your supervisor or maintenance if areas are icy/dangerous from weather conditions.
  • Take your time when walking across slippery surfaces. Taking smaller steps lessens your chances of losing your balance. Have the proper footwear on for the weather – solid treads with waterproofing, if possible. One of the best methods is “walking like a penguin.”

Winter Driving

  • Monitor weather for any incoming snow storms or icy conditions, and plan your travel around those conditions. Leave early to give yourself ample time when needed
  • Be a defensive driver. Stay clear of other drivers and maintain a safe distance in case you need to brake or turn to avoid an accident.
  • Slow down. Winter weather conditions necessitate driving at lower speeds. Reducing your speed will give you more time to react, as well as help to avoid losing control of your vehicle. There are varied suggestions for how much to slow down, but lowering your speed 10 miles per hour is a good start. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration suggests slowing down as much as half the posted speed limit.

Wind Chill Index

  • One factor to consider when working in a cold-weather environment is the effect that wind speed has on the temperature on the body. The presence of wind in an already cold environment can pose a deadly combination. It’s important to realize the effect wind has when paired with cold temperatures. For example, if it’s 10° F outside and there are also 20 MPH winds present, the temperature actually feels like -9° to the body. Due to the danger wind poses in cold weather, the National Weather Service will often issue wind chill advisories and warnings when a deadly combination of wind and cold air threaten an area.
  • Allow for acclimatization to cold environments or weather. If the weather is extremely cold for the area or time of year, you won’t be used to it and are more susceptible to succumbing to a cold-related illness.
  • Layer up on clothing and keep clothes dry. It’s important to remove any wet clothing or boots and put on dry items when working in a cold environment.
  • Take breaks in warm areas, drink warm beverages on breaks and when possible, monitor condition of other workers/colleagues around you.

What’s the Difference Between Hypothermia and Frostbite?
Both conditions are serious and need medical attention. Hypothermia is more life-threatening and affects more of your body than frostbite does.

Hypothermia affects the majority of your body. It is when you are no longer able to regulate your body heat and you are getting too cold. Your body temperature is important in keeping you alive, and if you don’t have enough energy to sustain it, it can become very serious quickly. Some of the warning signs of hypothermia are:

  • Drowsiness
  • Shivering (constant)
  • Memory loss
  • Slurred Speech
  • Confusion

When areas of your skin are exposed to freezing cold temperatures, frostbite can set in. This can even happen when clothing gets damp and isn’t protecting your skin well. The cells and tissue in the skin begin to die and not receive blood flow. In some instances, this can be treated and in others, amputation is required. Symptoms to watch for are:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling (constant)
  • Discolored skin – gray or yellow
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