Winter is in full swing, and so are the additional safety hazards that come with ice, snow, and sleet. The only way to ensure that your employees always have sure footing in slippery conditions is to make necessary safety changes for the season. These precautions are especially important if you work outdoors and need to adjust to wintery conditions. If you’ve ever witnessed a bad fall at work, you know how dangerous slick conditions can be. The good news is, slipping injuries are highly preventable when you prepare for the inevitable Upper Midwest snowstorms and cold spells. Check out our winter safety tips for avoiding slips, trips and falls in winter before your employees suffer an injury.
Install Hand Rails
Whether you have indoor or outdoor steps at your workplace, it’s important to make sure each set has handrails. In fact, it is the law to have handrails for stairs with four or more risers, and that’s for good reason. Sometimes it’s difficult to notice when a patch of ice or a puddle has formed on a step, so handrails provide extra support if you’re unsure how much grip each stair has. Tell your employees that no matter how much of a hurry they are in, getting up or down the stairs quickly is not worth a serious injury. Handrails exist for a reason, so encourage your employees to use them whenever possible.
Change Your Walk
It’s a seasonal tradition in the northern states to do our best impression of a penguin when walking from one place to another. It may look a little funny, but it is socially acceptable to change the way you move around when the conditions are icy. Whenever you’re strolling on a questionable sidewalk, be sure to take short steps and move more slowly than usual. It might not feel natural, but you will have a better reaction time if you suddenly lose your footing. If you’re in charge of safety at your workplace, don’t be afraid to bring out your inner lifeguard and call people out for running on the pavement.
Stay Cautious on Cleared Sidewalks
Sidewalks outside of a workplace should be cleared of all dangerous debris, including snow and ice. Use a shovel or snow blower to remove the fluffy white stuff while applying deicer to get rid of slippery ice patches. Even if you take these precautions, there’s no guarantee that the surface is totally safe to walk on. Black ice can form quickly and be nearly invisible to the naked eye. That’s why it’s important to encourage your employees to wear the proper footwear for winter conditions. Boots with rubber treads are perfect for gaining some grip. If your employees typically wear less sturdy shoes, they should attach ice grips to the bottom of them for extra traction.
Ice isn’t just dangerous for your employees; it can also be bad for your business. Falls on ice have accounted for about a third of workers compensation claims in Midwestern states during the last few years. That means more time off work for injured employees, more overtime pay for replacement employees, and higher insurance costs that can drain your company’s bank account. Even if none of your employees have had a bad slip this year, it’s important to take precautions that can prevent a costly injury. If you want to learn more about protecting your employees during winter, check out our blog post “Cold and Flu Season: Illness Prevention in the Workplace” to see what goes into a healthier work environment.