While Illinois is known for cold winters, the recent stretch of arctic temperatures has tested even the most hearty Midwesterners. For those who make their living outdoors, the snow and ice not only can add up to unpleasant working conditions, but also can bring a risk of injury.
Specifically, outdoor workers during the winter months face a higher risk of slipping, tripping and falling than during other times of the year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2014, there were 34,860 slip-and-fall injuries involving ice, sleet or snow requiring workers to take at least one day off to recuperate. The BLS also reported thousands of other slip-and-fall accidents that did not result in lost work time.
In 2015, the BLS announced there were 800 deaths on the job as a result of slips, trips and falls, according to a report in EHS Today. While workplace accidents involving slips, trips and falls can happen any time of the year, they are more common during cold winter months because of the harsh environment created by snow and ice.
Steps employers can take to keep workers safe during the winter
Employers have a responsibility to ensure the workplace is safe, which means removing snow, ice, and water from surfaces where their employees walk. According to Electrical Contractor, it’s estimated that nearly 80 percent of slips, trips and falls are linked to snow and ice on walking surfaces.
Electrical Contractor details steps employers should take to keep workers safe. It’s critical to prepare for winter weather conditions. Long before the snow flies, companies should have a plan for snow removal and plowing.
Other materials employers should have on hand include winter supplies such as snow blowers, shovels and ice-melting materials as well as a disaster supply kit.
Employers should make sure ice-melting materials, such as rock salt or sand, are easily accessible. They should be placed at doorways, sidewalks, stairs, parking lots and other areas where people gather.
In addition, buckets and mops should be readily available to clean up after snow and ice melt. A “wet floor” sign also may need to be placed near a slippery surface.
It’s not just the floors, stairs, walkways and parking lots that need to be cleared of snow and ice. Employers should ensure vehicles are safe. A truck’s access steps might need to be cleared of ice.
Drivers should be careful when stepping out of their vehicles. Any driveway or parking lot could have icy patches that pose a slip-and-fall risk. It’s a good idea to carry ice-melting materials in the vehicle for use at a job site.
Proper clothing is essential for outdoor workers, not only to protect against frostbite or hypothermia, but also to reduce the risk of falling. Sturdy rubber sole treads on work boots can improve traction on potentially slick surfaces.
For some jobs, it’s a good idea to use ice cleats attached to a shoe or boot. Some jobs require workers to walk over unfamiliar terrain that could suddenly become very slippery.
The winter can be a challenge, but by taking some simple common-sense precautions, workers and employers alike can greatly reduce the risk of slip-and-fall-accidents on the job.
If you are injured at work, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced attorney. Contact Schweickert & Ganassin LLP.
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