Winter Weather Risks for Outdoor Workers
Workplace accidents can happen anytime of the year, but winter is an especially challenging time for outdoor workers in Illinois. Snow and ice accumulation. Frigid temperatures. Dangerous debris. These are real cold weather hazards that employers can’t ignore.
EHS Today recently reported on the four steps an emergency health and safety manager can take to protect employees. Our workers’ compensation attorneys urge employers to follow these steps to keep their outdoor workers safe.
Step 1: Emergency Action Plan review
Employers need to prepare for emergencies before winter sets in. OSHA requires companies with 10 or more workers to have an emergency action plan. According to the EHS Today report, emergency officials at companies should have more than just a written plan. They should hold a preparedness meeting to raise awareness about seasonal hazards that could affect operations.
Employees should know how to respond to events caused by severe weather such as power outages and blackouts. A firm’s emergency management officer should have a plan to remove snow and ice after storms, as well as evacuation and escape route procedures. Drills are critical to train employees on how to respond to emergencies.
Step 2: Job Hazard Analysis
Employers need to identify potential hazards in the workplace that may be unique to winter. Routine work-site inspections – which are part of what EHS Today calls a “job hazard analysis” – could save lives in extreme conditions. For example, electrical equipment exposed to a leak or melted snow could threaten an employee’s safety and increase the risk of injury from electrocution.
Winter weather in Illinois also can result in structural damage to the company’s building. A proper job hazard analysis means keeping the facility clear of debris. Employers should ensure HVAC systems have been properly maintained.
Step 3: Keeping Workers Safe from Cold-Related Illnesses, Injuries
When the temperature plunges, outdoor workers in the winter face the threat of hypothermia and frostbite. EHS Today recommends that employers evaluate whether or not changes in protective equipment are needed to keep workers safe.
Employers should guard against fatigue among outdoor workers in the winter. EHS Today reports that workers should be given warm fluids and water when necessary to prevent dehydration. And by working in pairs, workers can look out for each other and take action if someone is showing signs of cold-related illness.
Step 4: Using Visual Communication to Highlight Hazards
Visibility can be a problem for outdoor workers in the winter. That’s why it’s critical for employers to install visual cues, such as signs, to alert employees about potential hazards. Glow-in-the-dark or reflective tape may need to be placed around door entries or low-clearance ceilings. Tread tape can be used on slippery surfaces. Work areas should be free from items that could create a trip hazard.
By following the steps outlined by EHS Today, employers will reduce the risk of accidents on the job during the cold weather months.
If you or a loved one was injured at work, contact an experienced attorney who can help you fight for the compensation and benefits you deserve. Contact Schweickert & Ganassin LLP.