Sleighbells ring, or are they sirens?
In the lane, someone spun out.
A dangerous sight; we’re calling HR tonight!
Navigating winter workplace hazards.
When preparing your staff for winter, there are a few extra conditions to consider to keep everyone safe, healthy, and productive...even if the weather outside is frightful.
1. Hypothermia or frostbite
When working outdoors, the cold can creep up on you. Be aware of the weather and dress accordingly for dips in temperature. Frostbite and hypothermia can occur in temperatures as high as 40 degrees and wind speeds as low as 5mph, so layers are always the way to go. No one wants to become an abominable snow person!
2. Low light conditions
With less light comes poorer visibility. When planning outdoor projects, it’s important to consider lighting. If you can’t avoid night work, be sure to provide reflective clothing for your workers so they can be more visible to passersby. Rudolph approves of these extra precautions!
3. Winter driving
With lower visibility and potentially hazardous road conditions, it’s a great time to remind your employees to plan for a longer commute, to slow down a tad, and to be aware and practice defensive driving during the winter. Let’s not remix “Grandma Got Run-over By A Reindeer” due to an avoidable accident!
4. Power equipment
Reviewing instructions and ensuring your employees know how to use the equipment during the winter that may only come out for a few months each year is worth the time. This extra step can help you avoid issues with cords, power lines, and accidents. We don’t need anyone reenacting any scenes from Christmas Vacation.
Physical activities require proper nutrition and hydration, always, and it is especially important in the winter when our bodies are working hard to keep us warm on top of everything else. There’s a reason Santa Claus puts on a few extra pounds before his annual sleigh ride!
6. Clearing snow from a roof
In The Santa Claus, Santa takes a tumble off the roof, which can happen when not being careful to look out for ice and slippery conditions. When clearing a roof, beware of more than just snow falling off! Clearing the areas in a timely fashion can also prevent freezing and potentially creating cracks or leaks. If you need to have workers on the roof, plan for wind, slippery conditions, lower temperatures, and electrical wires.
7. Power outages
Winter weather can cause more severe power outages. Keeping contact information for utility companies as well as emergency equipment, blankets, flashlights, and the like on hand can help employees stay safe during an outage. Employees should never work around downed power lines; those should only be handled by trained utility workers. The only shocks anyone wants this time of year is when they’re opening gifts!
8. Seasonal illnesses
Keeping a clean and sanitary environment can help workers stay healthy and safe during the cold months. It’s important to also put policies in place to account for sick time that will encourage workers to stay home when they are ill. Even Santa took a sick day when he needed to!
9. Winter blues
Depression and seasonal affective disorder do increase during winter months. Adjusting to the lack of daylight, stress of the holidays, and wrapping up the end of the year can bring on strong emotions for some. Sending out a reminder of sick day or PTO policies can be useful for employees who may be struggling to find a solution. When it comes to mental health, there may not be one clear solution, but when employees have access to the company paid leave policies and benefits, it may reduce the risk of having a blue Christmas.
10. Stiff muscles
Working outdoors or in cold environments can have an adverse effect on muscles and the body. Keeping a schedule for breaks and having places on-site where workers can warm up can prevent the stiffness from setting in. Compression wear can also help ease joints during the winter if needed. For indoor spaces, allowing employees to bring and wear layers, or have space heaters in safe areas, away from cloth or equipment that can catch fire, can also improve the quality of the workspace and prevent any frosty snowmen!
11. Ice, ice, ice
With temperatures that fluctuate throughout the day and night, parking lots and sidewalks can become a slipping hazard for workers and clients. Creating a plan for these conditions and having extra ice melt on hand is vital to keep walkways as stable as possible. While they may be beautiful to look at, icicles hanging from gutters or trees can also pose a problem if not addressed. The cold never bothered anyone, but that doesn’t include those who slip and fall on ice.
12. Snow days
When preparing for winter, companies should distribute information regarding sick days and PTO policies and benefit information for those who may struggle with their mental health. Companies should also have a straightforward way to communicate with employees during poor weather to keep them off the roads if conditions are dangerous. These policies should include an estimated time in which workers can expect to be contacted in the morning if the office or job site will be closed for the day and should outline the policy regarding if and when the days are ended early. Snow days are for adults, too!
No matter how you choose to handle winter policies and procedures with your clients, the key is to communicate clearly and as early as possible so that everyone can have a holly jolly, safe, and healthy season!
Wishing you and yours a safe and happy holiday season!
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