Facility Winter Preparedness
As winter approaches, it is important to plan facility operations with a focus on injury prevention. Here are some suggestions to consider when planning a winter safety plan. The key is to start planning early and prepare for the worst.
Managers and supervisors should make sure that they have a winter safety plan and that it includes the following:
- Arrangements for shoveling, sweeping and keeping walkways clear and in good condition.
- A comprehensive list of available snow and ice removal equipment at the facility (de-icer, shovels, brooms, waterproof floor mats, plows), the supervisors responsible for the equipment and the priority of service in emergency conditions. The list should also indicate:
- The location and types of equipment available.
- Contractors who provide winter services specific to your facility.
- A weather communications plan for extreme conditions, such as wind, low temperatures, heavy rain, sleet, drifting snow and ice. The plan should include procedures for communication between supervisors, crews and contractors. Make sure that the plan clearly outlines the responsibility of all parties.
- A manpower plan for situations requiring immediate emergency response.
- Inspection procedures on agency vehicles for safe winter operations, scheduled maintenance and winterization.
- Safety meetings for all drivers of agency vehicles on safe winter operating rules and expectations.
All employees should be encouraged to discuss winter weather concerns or issues with supervision. In addition, employees are responsible for:
- Attending all safety meetings.
- Following all winter safety guidelines and rules.
- Wearing the appropriate clothing for inclement weather if job tasks require them to be outside.
- Inspecting brakes, tires, wipers, heater/defroster, lights, window scrapers and other safety equipment on agency vehicles before operation.
Wintertime slips, trips and falls
Slip, trip and fall injuries are the most common type of injury that occur during the winter months because of wet, icy and snowy conditions.
When preparing for the workday, plan for the day’s weather forecast, especially if inclement weather is expected. During cold weather conditions, special attention should be paid to the following:
- Make sure employees wear proper footwear. Review the uses and drawbacks of different types of footwear for icy and snowy conditions.
- Rubber soled shoes – designed to keep feet dry in wet conditions.
- Shoes with treads – designed to provide a better grip in wet and slippery conditions.
- Anti-slip soles or overshoes – designed to provide a better grip in wet, greasy, and slippery conditions.
- Shoe chains – designed to provide traction on ice and snow. Should not be used on normal surfaces because the chain links provide unstable footing.
- Ice Creepers – designed to be used on thick ice or deep snow. Should not be used on normal surfaces because the studs, spikes or bolts provide unstable footing.
- Snowshoes – designed to be used in the snow. Can be used on normal surfaces.
- Make sure that walking surfaces are cleared of ice and snow. Walkways that ice up should be sanded or treated with other de-icers. If a walkway is simply too slippery to walk or work safely, it should be shut down until the area can be cleared or conditions improve.
- Ensure that walkways are cleared of obstacles and debris, which can pose additional hazards under ice and snow.
- Recognize that snowy conditions, combined with heavy winter apparel, can limit an employee’s ability to see and hear. Employees should take extra precautions to be aware of the work environment and to avoid slip, trip and fall hazards.
- Ensure that anti-slip/de-icing compounds, shovels, brooms, waterproof floor mats and other equipment are available for use at the facility.
- Review with employees the potential for slips, trips and falls in snowy and icy conditions.
- Use small steps
- Use handrails when available, such as on stairs and ladders
- Use smooth motions
- Stretch often to improve flexibility and reduce the stiffness that can come with cold weather
- Always stay aware and alert. If possible, avoid doing other tasks while walking. When the nature of the work requires employees to inspect equipment or do other activities while walking, they should frequently scan their path for obstructions or hazards.
- Always look forward and establish sure footing with each step. Never walk backwards and when moving through an area, choose a path that is level and stable.
- Be especially careful while walking in wet conditions, at night, or on a sloping surface.
- Walking-related injuries often occur when people are rushing or taking shortcuts.
It is important to dress properly in cold weather, especially if job tasks take employees outside. Several layers of clothes should be worn so that layers can be removed to avoid perspiration and chill. Here are some tips on how to layer clothing:
This layer provides basic insulation and moves moisture away from the skin, preventing chill when the activity is stops. When choosing this layer, pick long underwear or thin snug fitting pants with a long sleeve T-shirt or turtleneck.
This layer provides an additional insulation for the body. One or more layers may be needed, depending on the conditions outside. Sweaters, sweatshirts and other similar garments are good choices for this layer.
The outer layer provides weatherproofing. Select garments that are wind and waterproof for this layer. Good examples include jackets or coats made of coated nylon or polyester. It is also important that the outer layer fits correctly. If the outer layer is too big, heat loss can occur rapidly and if it is too small, there may not be enough room for insulating layers. It is also important to wear a hat because half of the body’s heat can be lost through the top of the head. Socks and gloves should be worn to help protect fingers and toes.
Most importantly, employees should try to stay dry and warm while working outdoors in inclement weather.
As “Old Man Winter” starts to travel towards Virginia, be prepared because he will arrive sooner than you think. Take the time to preplan, prepare and get a head start on your agency’s winter preparedness.
Taking Winter by Storm, Winter Preparedness Home Page, Retrieved October 20, 2002, from http://www.vdem.virginia.gov
Winter Preparedness Checklist, Retrieved October 18, 2002, from http://organizedhome.com
Winter Preparedness Safety Tips, Retrieved October 18, 2002, from http://www.fema.gov
Winter Preparedness Tips, Retrieved October 18, 2002, from http://www.pw.sacto.org/tips.html
Winter Weather Safety Tips, Retrieved October 18, 2002, from http://www.uww.edu
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