Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Cool Sense in a Hot Spot: Everyone Expects Cold Weather in the North, but It May Be Even More Important to Prepare for Winter Safety in Warmer Climates

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Cool Sense in a Hot Spot: Everyone Expects Cold Weather in the North, but It May Be Even More Important to Prepare for Winter Safety in Warmer Climates

Article excerpt

Winter months bring the obvious hazardous weather conditions to our northern states. However, some of the most common, overlooked winter safety issues occur in the South. The number of below-freezing weather days in these areas are minimal, and snow accumulation is rare--making it that much easier for hazards to sneak up on unprepared workers and safety directors.

What does often occur in these states are drastic temperature fluctuations in winter. I have experienced sunshine, rain and snow all within a 24-hour period in the South. The biggest culprit in the "surprise" weather category is rain that freezes overnight. When weather acts like that, it can catch you off guard and definitely affect front-line revenue in the following ways:

* Business interruption

* Increased accidents

* Potential for litigation

In an effort to help you combat winter weather-related costs and injuries, I will cover just two main topics: slips and falls and winter vehicle safety tips, as there simply isn't enough room in one article to cover all there is to know about cold weather safety in the South.

* Lower productivity

Slip and Fall Prevention--Facility Preparation

Walking on ice, snow and slush in the winter months has its slippery moments, especially for folks in the southern United States who have limited experience with these conditions. For those of you who have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time on dry ground, I will only give you one piece of advice: "Don't chew gum in the winter."

Funny-business aside, these conditions must be approached thoughtfully and with a more focused frame of mind because slip and fall accidents are no joke. Here's why:

Next to traffic crashes, slips and falls kill and injure more people nationally each year than any other type of incident. Approximately 6,000 people die each year as a result of falls at home. Away from home, nearly 6,000 more people die each year as a result of falls on the job or elsewhere--and cold conditions during winter months contribute considerably to these falls.

As a safety director an easy way of not dealing with winter slips and falls is to move to Hawaii during the cold months. However, that idea might not sit so well with your CEO (It didn't with mine).

Since tropical islands are probably not an option for you or your workers, here below are some proactive measures that should be considered, and acted upon, prior to the approach of the "Southern" winter months--no later than November.

* If you do not own your building, contact your building property management to discuss ice and snow removal procedures. Be ready to make constructive suggestions in case you feel the management is not as prepared as you would like them to be. Keep the name and phone number of your landlord handy when conditions warrant a quick call.

* Make sure that you have assessed the potential hazards in the entrance area(s) leading directly into your place of business/businesses and have taken steps to minimize these hazards. For example, use water-absorbing mats, slip-proof rubber mats, warning cones and handrails for steps.

* At a minimum, stock the following items in your facility:

* 2-4 bags of salt (covers one or two entrances)

* 2-4 bags of sand (covers one or two entrances)

* 1 steel or iron rake for scraping ice off concrete walkways;

* 4-8 orange caution cones;

* Water-absorbent mats.

* In the event of freezing-rain conditions or ice, distribute the salt first, followed by sand. Place caution cones along hazardous areas, especially high traffic entranceways.

* Use water-absorbent mats inside entranceways with caution cones if floors get wet. Keep a mop handy to clean up excessive moisture.

Slip and Fall Prevention--Winter Walking Safety

Following are some preventative tips that should be shared with employees prior to foul weather--it won't do anyone any good to read these after they have already fallen. …

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