Old Man Winter and his pals, cold temperatures, icy winds, snow, freezing rain, and sleet, come every year, whether we like it or not. And every year, we have to dig out our gloves, hats, boots, and heavy coats to prepare for the inevitable onslaught of wintry weather conditions.
While many of us have the luxury of working in heated offices, some have jobs that require them to work outside in the cold for extended periods of time. For these folks, it’s imperative to take certain winter weather safety precautions and be aware of winter work safety tips.
Winter Work Safety Tips
Working outside in the winter can be hazardous to those who are not properly protected against the elements. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends the following cold-weather safety tips for workers:
- Monitor your physical condition, as well as that of your coworkers, for any signs of cold stress. Your employer should make sure you are able recognize these symptoms.
- Dress appropriately for the weather conditions.
- Stay dry. Moisture or dampness (such as from sweating) can increase the rate that the body loses heat.
- Keep extra clothing on hand in case you get wet.
- Drink warm, sweetened fluids. Do not drink alcohol.
- Follow your employer’s safe work practices, and use any heaters and personal protective equipment (PPE) provided to you.
An Employer’s Responsibilities
According to OSHA, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that employees are working in a place that is “free from recognized hazards, including winter weather related hazards, which are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to them.”
OSHA recommends the following guidelines for employers who require employees to work outside in cold temperatures:
- Train workers on cold stress (how to recognize symptoms) and other winter weather hazards, such as slippery roads and windy conditions, that they may be exposed to.
- Provide engineering controls, such as radiant heaters, to reduce the risk of cold stress and other weather-related hazards. For instance, “aerial lifts or ladders can be used for safely applying de-icing materials to roofs, to protect workers from the hazard of falling through sky lights,” according to OSHA.
- Implement safe work practices, including providing workers with proper tools and safety gear, scheduling jobs in warmer weather when possible, and providing warm break areas and warm liquids for workers.
- Consider providing employees with protective clothing that keeps them warm in addition to required PPE. While OSHA does not require that employers provide workers with ordinary clothing used solely for protection from the weather, many employers already supply workers with items like coats and gloves.
By following these guidelines, employers can help keep their employees safe while they’re working outside in the cold.
Get additional winter work safety tips for working in cold environments at OSHA.gov.
The Benefits of Business Insurance
Keeping employees safe at work is a serious matter for employers. In the event that an employee is injured on the job, having proper coverage by general business liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance is crucial.
Smallwood and Small’s expert agents are ready to help with all of your business insurance needs. Call our Martinsburg, West Virginia, office today at 304-263-3361, or call our Inwood office at 304-229-7227.
For more information and a quick quote, visit our business insurance page.
Photo Credit: Daniel Zedda. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.