Winter Storms and Employee Safety

Within the next few months we will be
faced with the threat of severe winter storms hitting the New York area. We at
Lovell Safety Management Co., LLC saw an increase in the number of employee
injuries due to last year’s severe winter weather. Now is the perfect time to
spend a few minutes with your employees discussing their safety during these
Winter storms create a variety of hazards and can have lingering impacts
on everyday tasks and work activities.
Learning about how to
prepare for a winter storm and avoid hazards when they occur will help keep you
safe during the winter season.
and Hypothermia
Frostbite is a severe
reaction to cold exposure that causes freezing in the deep layers of skin and
tissue. Frostbite can cause permanent damage. It is recognizable by a loss of
feeling and a waxy-white or pale appearance in fingers, toes, nose, or ear
Hypothermia occurs when
the body temperature drops to less than 95°F. Symptoms of hypothermia include
uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapses, frequent stumbling,
drowsiness, and exhaustion.
To avoid frostbite and
hypothermia, take frequent breaks and drink plenty of fluids (avoiding ones
with caffeine or alcohol).
Dressing Properly for the Cold
Wear at least three
layers of loose fitting clothing. Layering provides better insulation.
An inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic material to keep
moisture away from the body.
A middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when
An outer wind and rain protection layer that allows some
ventilation to prevent overheating.
Use a knit mask to
cover your face and mouth. A hat that covers your ears will help keep your
whole body warmer. Also, insulated and water proof boots gloves.
Walking safely on snow and ice
Whenever possible, clear
walking surfaces of snow and ice and use salt or its equivalent. In addition,
the following precautions will help reduce the likelihood of any injuries:

  • A pair of well-insulated boots with good rubber treads is a must for walking during or after a winter storm.
  • Take short steps and walk at a slower pace so you can react quickly to a change in traction.
  • Be on the lookout for vehicles that may have lost traction and are slipping toward you. Be aware that approaching vehicles may not be able to stop at crosswalks or traffic signals.
  • At night, wear bright clothing or reflective gear, as dark clothing will make it difficult for motorists to see you.

Shoveling snow can be a strenuous
activity and can create the potential for exhaustion, dehydration, back
injuries, or heart attacks. Wearing the proper footwear, adequate layers of
clothing, and sunglasses (during the day) is a must.
Workers should warm up,
scoop small amounts of snow at a time, push the snow instead of lifting where
possible, and use the proper form if lifting is necessary. Use power blowers
whenever possible.
in a vehicle during a winter storm
Stay in the vehicle. You
may become disoriented and lost in blowing and drifting snow. Display a trouble
sign by hanging a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna and raising the hood.
Turn on the vehicle’s
engine for about 10 minutes each hour and run the heat to keep warm. Beware of
carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and open a downwind
window slightly for ventilation.
Watch for signs of
frostbite and hypothermia. Do minor exercises to keep up circulation. Use newspapers,
maps, and even the removable car mats for added insulation until help arrives.

Work Zone Traffic Safety
Workers being struck by vehicles or
mobile equipment lead to many work zone fatalities or injuries annually.
Drivers may skid, or lose control of their vehicles more easily when driving on
snow and/or ice covered roads. It is therefore, important to properly set up
work zones with the traffic controls identified by signs, cones, barrels, and
barriers, to protect workers. Workers exposed to vehicular traffic should wear
the appropriate high visibility vest at all times, so that they can be visible
to motorists
of Downed Trees
Clearing downed trees is a
critical job during a winter storm. When winter storms occur, downed trees can
block public roads and damage power lines. Emergency crews are often sent out
to clear downed trees during a winter storm. Potential hazards include:

  •       Electrocution
    by contacting downed energized lines or contacting broken tree limbs in contact
    with fallen lines.
  •       Falls
    from trees.
  •       Being
    struck or crushed by falling tree limbs or ice.
  •       Being
    injured by equipment such as chain saws and chippers.

Proper protective
equipment should be worn by workers using chainsaws and chippers. Only
appropriate power equipment that is built to be used outdoors and in wet conditions
should be used. It is important that all equipment is well-maintained and functioning
correctly in order for use. In addition, all equipment should have proper
guarding, working controls, and other safety features as installed by the

Clearing Snow from Roofs and
Working at Heights
There have been16
fatalities in the past 10 years due to employees clearing snow from roofs. Following
a winter storm, workers should employ standard protections when working at
heights and should also be aware of the potential for unexpected hazards due to
the weather. Employers should provide and ensure the use of fall protection and
provide and maintain ladders. In addition, workers should use caution around
surfaces that have been weighed down by snow, as they may collapse.
Company owners, supervisors and employees all play a key role in
preventing employee injuries. Owners are responsible for providing a safe and
healthy workplace, the needed tools, protective equipment and training. Supervisors
must be empowered to discipline employees for at risk behavior and employees
must do their job safely.
We all need to take responsibility for safety and the prevention of work
site injuries. Safety, especially during winter storms, must be an integral
part of the way we work. That is the only way to create a truly safe and
healthy workplace.
For further information on
winter storm safety:

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