Working in the winter
Winter is now in full swing in many parts of the country and this year’s winter is projected to be colder than the last. Working outside in the winter can present a variety of challenges – from driving on snow and ice, to wearing the right clothing, to safely navigating slippery surfaces.
Winter driving can be intimidating and scary. Often there’s snow and ice on the road and visibility can be compromised due to falling snow, blowing snow, and fog. When the conditions are just right, black ice can form creating a coat of ice so thin, it’s often impossible to see. If temperatures are hovering around zero and there’s been a recent thaw followed by a freeze, be on the lookout for black ice and follow these tips if you do encounter it:
- Keep at least a five second following distance from the vehicle in front of you because it takes twice as long to stop on black ice.
- If you have to brake, try to brake as little as possible. If you have an anti-lock braking system, apply the brake firmly and consistently. If you don’t have ABS, pump the brakes lightly.
- Be especially vigilant in the early morning when air temperature warms faster than road temperature.
- Be cautious when driving on bridges and overpasses, and when driving through shaded areas like tunnels.
- Don’t overcorrect your steering if you feel the car sliding.
Slips and Falls
Winter-related slips and falls account for 29% of all workers’ compensation claims in the US. Avoid becoming a workers’ compensation statistic and follow these simple tips while working this winter:
- Avoid snow covered and slippery surfaces when you can. Wet leaves, icy patches, and snow banks all present potential hazards.
- If you’re walking on a slippery surface, walk slowly and deliberately and try to keep your centre of gravity over your front leg. Think about mimicking the walk of a penguin.
- Check that you’re wearing footwear appropriate for the conditions. Slip resistant soles and ice grippers that attach to your shoes or boots are great for added traction. Wear appropriate footwear with slip-resistant soles to work, and change into indoor footwear. Ice grippers that attach to your footwear can provide additional traction.
- Be sure to remove excess snow or ice from your shoes when you go inside. Caked-on snow or ice can cause you to fall, and tracked in snow can melt and cause slips and falls for others.
- It’s your responsibility to protect your employees and the public by keeping parking lots and sidewalks clear. Check the weather so you know what’s coming and are prepared to keep those areas maintained.
- Make sure your workers have the right gear and footwear for winter conditions.
- Clean up wet floors immediately and ensure mats are secured and don’t present a trip risk.
- Make sure to educate your employees on how they can protect themselves and others from slips and falls.
Dressing for the Cold
Being properly dressed for winter conditions can protect you from frostbite and also make your workday a lot more enjoyable:
- Wear a number of layers. Clothing layers keep you warm by trapping warm air between the layers. This will insulate you better from the cold and also provide you with the flexibility to take off layers if it gets warmer.
- Cover your head and face with a toque or balaclava. Up to 40% of your body’s heat can be lost when your head is left exposed.
- Have some hand or foot warmers as a back-up in case it gets colder or you’re working with someone who came less prepared.
- Wear waterproof or water-resistant outer layers. If you’re wet you’ll become chilled more quickly.
Being prepared for colder conditions on the job will keep you safe and make your workday more enjoyable this winter!