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Old Man Winter is approaching. Is your business ready to withstand a possible winter weather event or winter hazard? Do you keep the plant running or shut it down? How do you communicate safety information to employees? By planning ahead and being prepared for possible upcoming winter hazards, you can make sure productivity and employee safety doesn’t suffer. Check out these tips:

Review the Emergency Action Plan (EAP)

OSHA requires workplaces with 10 or more employees to have a written emergency action plan. A facility-wide emergency preparedness meeting should occur well before the winter season. A group discussion promotes awareness throughout a facility about winter hazards likely to stall normal operations. Topics to discuss at an emergency preparedness meeting and to include in an emergency plan include:

Impact on operations: Start with some questions. What are the predicted winter hazards most likely to occur in your area? What has been the effect on operations in the past? And what is the best way the company and employees can prepare for predicted emergencies? Be sure to consider secondary issues that may occur related to a winter hazard like power outages and blackouts from high winds and storms, proper snow and ice removal procedures, and evacuations and emergency escape route procedures.

Emergency communications: Make sure your lines of communication in a winter emergency are clearly spelled out for employees. Employees should know how to respond, who to contact, and how to communicate effectively in emergencies as well as when inclement weather affects normal operations.

Emergency drills: Have a few emergency drills and simulate some emergency scenarios in your facility on a regular basis and evaluate areas for improvement.

Resource sharing: Provide easily accessible resources to all employees that outline the most important workplace emergency procedures, like contact information and procedural reminders.

Prevent Cold–Related Illness And Injury

Anyone working in the cold can be at risk of cold-related illnesses and injuries. In general, it doesn’t hurt to train all employees on recognizing the signs and symptoms of common cold-related illnesses including cold stress, hypothermia and frostbite. Providing an onsite location for employees to get an influenza vaccine is also a smart way to avoid employee absences due to the flu. An outbreak of the flu at a worksite can greatly affect productivity as most adults with the flu can be bed-ridden for up to five days.

Other controls that can be applied to ensure worker safety:

Adapt personal protective equipment (PPE): Evaluate if changes in PPE are needed to ensure worker safety. Although OSHA requires employers to protect workers’ safety and health, it is not required for employers to provide workers with clothing items used solely for the protection against weather, like winter coats (29 CFR 1910.132(h)(4)).

Prevent fatigue: Keep energy levels up and prevent dehydration by providing workers with warm fluids and water.

Have a buddy system: Employees ideally work in pairs or more to help monitor each other for symptoms of cold-related illnesses for added safety. Also, remind employees to keep their general health in mind.

Use Visual Cues to Bring Attention to Winter Hazards

Bring hazards to attention using a variety of visual communication methods including signage, floor marking and wayfinding.
Visual cues can bring attention to hazards not usually present (like an icy loading dock) or reiterate hazards that are especially dangerous during winter (wash your hands). Some visual cues signage you may want to consider for winter months include:

Keep areas clear: Make sure pathways, work areas, and stairways are clear from unnecessary items that could cause potential injury.

Emphasize hard-to-see areas: Clearly highlight areas, items, and machinery when it becomes more difficult to navigate in low-light conditions. Outline egress pathways, door entries, low clearance ceilings and other important areas that are in need of extra attention using glow-in-the-dark and reflective tape. Our Superior Mark™ Floor Tape products are available in glow-in-the-dark composite option.

Identify area that may need extra traction: Identify locations that are prone to being slippery or difficult to navigate by adding signs and/or tread tapes. These signs that advise caution can be used in icy locations or areas employees may work in extreme cold temperatures. Locate where these temporary (or permanent) signs should be installed and have a plan on who is to determine when the signs are needed and oversees the installation.

Emergency situations can be less stressful with clear, concise visual cues. Make sure your facility is ready for a winter weather emergency.