In 2014, there were 42,480 occupational injuries involving ice, snow, or sleet that required at least one day away from work to recover.
As risk management consultants, we work hard to identify both potential and preexisting causes of loss in the workplace. Employee injuries and health-related issues, while often not controllable, can greatly affect a company as a whole, and winter weather can create additional risks in and around your workplace.
So how do you ensure your employees stay safe this winter? Check out a few risk management strategies you can help implement to promote a strong worker safety culture in your organization.
1. Be Prepared
Weather is never fully predictable, especially in the greater St. Louis area, but don't wait until the snow or ice storm is happening to implement these risk management strategies. Stay current with weather forecasts and if it appears a storm is coming, remind your employees of winter safety techniques.
Encourage employees to maintain their vehicles and keep an emergency kit ready. Your organization should have storm supplies on hand, such as food, water, jumper cables, sand bags, and shovels. If your employees are able to do work from home, make sure they choose to do so in the case of dangerous inclement weather.
2. Clear Snow and Ice Off of Pathways
Slippery surfaces present the biggest hazard in winter. Falls on the same level (as in, not from a height) cost employers approximately $11.2 billion in 2015. The best prevention of these common injuries is remaining diligent in snow and ice removal.
- Make sure whoever performs snow and ice removal checks equipment regularly to ensure it functions as normal and does not need replacing.
- Regularly clear walkways of snow and ice, and use salt and/or sand to melt the ice and provide increased traction.
- Encourage employees to wear shoes with good rubber treads in poor weather conditions.
- Go through your workplace and identify and potential risks and hazards. Sidewalks and building entrances are just one element. There is also a risk that employees will slip and fall once they're inside the building. If there are any hazardous areas — such as spaces prone to wet foot traffic — make sure to use temporary signs, floor stands or cones to warn employees as they walk by.
- Review previous incident reports and consider making changes to areas with repeated risk.
These proactive risk management strategies can save you major headaches throughout the season.
3. Report Damaged Power and Gas Lines
In severe winter weather conditions, damaged power lines can present a serious issue. The increased moisture from snow can impact the protective equipment of lines and potentially cause electrocution.
If storms cause damage to power and gas lines near your workplace, or if the lines come down completely, keep a safe distance. This could pose a great risk to your office and its employees. Report any incidents of downed or damaged lines to the correct authority.
4. Know the Signs of Frostbite and Hypothermia
While those who work outside are more likely to get these cold weather conditions, make sure all employees are aware of some of the most common symptoms.
- Reduced sensation of touch or stinging sensation
- Red, white, blue or gray skin from weak circulation
- Hard or wax-like skin
- Joint or muscle stiffness
- Shivering and/or shaking
- Slurred speech
- Shallow and slow breathing
- Slow pulse
- Lack of coordination
While you can't prevent every winter-related injury, your best defense is being prepared and informed, and helping your employees do the same. Effective, proactive risk management strategies are the first step in keeping your employees safe.
If an injury does occur, do you have team in place that can handle accident claims management and ensure all incidents are handled appropriately and efficiently?