When avoiding winter hazards isn’t an option, increase warehouse employees’ awareness of weather-related dangers through training and improved visual cues. OSHA cold weather safety standards¹ emphasize the need for employers to reduce cold stress on staff to prevent injuries from over-exposure and slips and falls. Start reviewing your Emergency Action Plan before the season arrives to identify issues early and find areas for improvement. By planning ahead and updating visual cues for future winter hazards, you can make sure productivity and employee safety don’t suffer. Check out these tips for improving cold weather safety at work.
Review the Emergency Action Plan (EAP)
OSHA requires workplaces with 10 or more employees to have a written emergency action plan. When developing an emergency preparedness plan, it may be beneficial to include a variety of staff, from management to shop floor employees, during the planning process. A facility-wide emergency preparedness meeting should occur before the season to raise awareness of winter hazards and promote warehouse safety.
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? 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 be caused by a winter storm, such as power outages and blackouts, proper snow and ice removal processes, and emergency evacuation procedures.
- Emergency communications: Make sure your lines of communication in a winter emergency are clearly spelled out for employees. Everyone should know what the notification or alert will sound like, how to respond, including how to escape, and who to contact in emergencies when inclement weather affects normal operations.
- Emergency drills: Simulate scenarios in your facility on a regular basis to evaluate areas for process improvements, signage and wayfinding updates, and to prepare employees for real emergency situations.
- Resource sharing: Provide easily accessible resources to all employees that outline the most important workplace emergency protocols. This would include things like contact information and procedural reminders, but you can also share information about cold stress, how to identify it, and work safety tips for winter.
Update and Improve Visual Cues for Winter Hazards
Once your EAP is complete and you have identified winter weather hazards, it’s time to give areas where dangers exist better visibility with safety signage, floor markings, and wayfinding visual cues. These will bring attention to hazards not usually present, like an icy loading dock and reiterate hazards that may be more prevalent during winter, such as low-light conditions.
Emphasize Hard-to-See Areas and Equipment
Fewer daylight hours and frequently overcast skies in the winter can reduce the visibility of everyday hazards indoors and out. Identify locations where accident prevention could be strengthened through extra lighting and visual cues, like reflective tape. Apply the tape to structural elements and fixed objects, in areas with increased risks, and along machine boundaries to prevent collisions and accidents in dimly lit areas. Conspicuity striping tape applied to carts and forklifts makes objects in motion noticeable, and adding UV and weather-resistant vehicle tape on snow removal equipment and plow trucks warns pedestrians and other traffic to use caution.
Our glow-in-the-dark tape has many uses for winter safety as well, including improving visibility indoors for egress pathways and stairwells, door entries, and low-clearance ceilings. Choose the solution to suit the environment, taking the time to mark ramp edges, poles, and equipment that may go unnoticed in low lighting or snowy conditions. Visual cues such as these benefit your business during the winter and year-round.
Mark Exterior Locations for Traffic Safety
Raised pavement markings (RPMs) can provide luminance through frosty, snowy conditions to safely guide snow removal teams or anyone traveling on your property. Raised reflectors are effective for delineating traffic and preventing vehicles from nearing fire hydrants, loading zones, curb ramps, and emergency lanes in industrial or commercial lots. While standard road reflectors are effective in most seasons, raised markers provide extra visibility in poor weather. The durable, impact-resistant housings withstand plow and vehicle traffic so your facility markings remain intact, with little maintenance.
Boost Winter Slip and Fall Prevention Efforts
The first step to winter slip and fall prevention is maintaining clean, dry floors, especially near entrances and on docks and ramps. Identify slick surfaces and properly mark them with safety signs to prevent slips and falls in your workplace. Floor signs with clean-up reminders add extra reinforcement in problem areas and they can be installed directly where precipitation and snowmelt are common. These can alert crewmembers to step up mopping and drying efforts. For areas where refreeze occurs or where the surfaces are naturally slick, use safety floor signs with the messages Slippery When Wet or Caution Icy Surface to call out specific hazards before missteps occur.
Make Tactile Improvements With Anti-Skid Tape
Signs alert workers that caution is needed, but anti-skid tape can further strengthen facility safety measures by improving traction in hazardous locations. There are many types of non-skid floor marking tape for industrial and commercial locations, including exits and entrances, stairs, ramps, loading docks, walk-in coolers and freezers, and catwalks. The raised, gritty surface gives pedestrians a better foothold to prevent accidents due to slips and falls, and while anti-slip tapes are effective in any season, they can be especially helpful when winter weather creates unpredictably wet or slick spots.
Update Storage for Seasonal Equipment
Sidewalks, work areas, and stairways should always be kept clear, but extra-diligent clearing walkways during snowy months can keep everyone safer, inside and out. Use 5S tape to plan and label storage for winter gear (i.e. snow blowers, shovels, deicing salt) to keep items organized and accessible, yet out of the way so they won’t leave puddles and snow in traffic lanes.
When tools are easy to find, the snow removal crew is better able to provided prompt shoveling to prevent slips on snow and ice in accordance with OSHA cold weather safety recommendations. If you rotate your summer and winter equipment, our floor tape peels up and removes quickly to simplify seasonal transitions.
Create Placement Reminders for Winter Engineering Controls
According to OSHA, workers should be trained on the appropriate engineering controls to reduce the risk of cold stress¹. Whether staff is in an exterior security booth, loading dock, or indoor work cell, these control items might include plastic sheeting or tarps to block wind, space heaters, or insulated sleeves for equipment handles. Instead of asking employees to estimate the safest, most-effective placement of these tools, mark the positions on the floor or pavement to eliminate guesswork. This can help prevent fires from heater misuse and reduce exposure to winter hazards, like wind and extreme temperatures. Our floor tape and temporary pavement markings create clear equipment outlines so arranging engineering controls is measured, safe, and repeatable.
Add Visual Cues for Personal Protective Equipment
Prevent cold stress by encouraging employees to wear safety clothing to reduce exposure to harsh temperatures. OSHA requires employers to protect their workers from hazards, but companies do not need to provide clothing items used solely for winter weather (i.e. jackets, parkas, gloves)². Though this is different than other PPE standards, reminding employees of adequate dress and footwear through personal protective floor signs can strengthen the safety culture in your workplace and make protecting oneself in winter a priority. Our PPE signs are easy to install by dock doors or where in-and-out is frequent to promote extra vigilance.
Review Signage for Winter Weather Emergencies
Make sure your facility is ready for a winter weather emergency by reviewing your evacuation signage and floor markers. Streamline exiting during power outages and other snow-related emergencies by giving employees clear, concise assembly point signage directing them out of harm’s way. Consider which situations it would be best to use an indoor gathering area and confirm your wayfinding visual cues also support this site. Outside, use snowplowable markers in addition to pavement signs to keep the exterior setting marked and unobstructed, even in poor winter weather conditions.
OSHA cold weather safety requires employers to prevent illnesses, injuries, or fatalities by controlling winter hazards³. Our floor signs and tape create highly visible cues that provide reminders and work safety tips so employees may avoid slips on snow, ice, and slippery surfaces. Find more ideas for improving your warehouse to make it safe, productive, and organized in our Resource Center.