Winter Safety: Heightened awareness and planning key for outside workers

Jan 4, 2013

Brrrrrr! It’s winter again…

Most workers can stay inside during a winter storm and avoid blowing snow, ice storms and blizzard conditions at all costs. However that is not the case for many of us whose work environment exposes us to whatever mother nature presents. For those of you working in the elements this winter, the JRE Safety Department would like to share some gentle reminders when braving this winter’s weather at work or at home.

 

Prevention and Planning for the Elements

Whether it’s work or play that causes you to brave the elements, conditions like frostbite, hypothermia, slips and falls and illnesses can be prevented with a little planning and caution. A quarter of all winter storm injuries are a result of being caught in a storm unprepared and can easily be prevented by following these 10 steps.

  1. Recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that lead to potential cold induced illnesses and injuries
  2. Learn the signs and symptoms of cold induced illnesses/injuries and what to do to help those who are affected
  3. Select proper clothing for cold, wet and windy conditions
  4. Layer clothing to adjust to changing environmental temperatures.  Wear a hat and gloves, in addition to long underwear (wicking type that keeps water away from the skin)
  5. Take frequent short breaks in warm dry shelters to allow the body to warm up
  6. Perform work during the warmest part of the day
  7. Avoid exhaustion or fatigue because energy is needed to keep muscles warm
  8. Use the buddy system (work in pairs)
  9. Drink warm beverages and eat warm, high calorie foods like hot pasta
  10. Wear proper footwear and/or insulated boots with good tread when walking on snow/ice

 

Driving in the White Stuff

Nearly three out of every four winter storm injuries result from vehicle accidents. Give yourself extra time, plan your trip and most of all slow down, as black ice, blowing and drifting snow are all possible.

 

Hidden Dangers

When the snow starts flying you may find yourself in situations outside of your daily routine. Here are some other high risk winter occurrences that JRE workers should be aware of:

  • Shoveling snow can be a strenuous activity, resulting in exhaustion, back injury, or even heart attack. Additional high-risk activities include clearing snow from the roof, falling ice (icicles) or working from heights. These activities present hazards like placement of the ladder, footing while removing the snow, unseen skylights under the snow and even collapse from the weight of the snow on the dwelling.
  • Downed energized lines or the possibility of contacting an object that is in contact with a downed line such as broken tree limbs lying across the road, fallen electrical poles, transformer debris and parts
  • Other vehicles that swerved to miss obstructions in the road or have lost control of their vehicle, or vehicles parked haphazardly to respond to an emergency
  • Injuries sustained from use of equipment, such as chainsaws or snowblowers. Risk factors associated with use of this equipment include falling limbs or a snowblower jammed with snow/ice

 

Preparing for cold weather using a little planning, common sense and awareness can reduce the dangers caused by these conditions. Let’s be safe out there and enjoy the season!