The number of absent workers regularly spikes between December and March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, last January marked a five-year high for the number of U.S. full-time workers taking sick days — an estimated 1.3 million stayed home and 3.3 million worked part time.
Although some of this is related to seasonal illnesses, what can you do this winter to make your workplace safer and cut down on the number of absences and injuries?
Smart Business spoke with Christine Hopkins, client advisor at TriCountry Insurance Agency, a member of the SeibertKeck group, about cold weather safety.
How can you decrease wintertime injuries to employees and customers?
Encourage employees to wear snow appropriate shoes, including rubber soles and boots. Those wearing dress shoes and high heels have a notably higher chance of injury in snowy, icy and wet conditions.
Keep all walkways, sidewalks and parking lots shoveled and clear of ice and snow with regular salting and shoveling. According to the Worker’s Compensation Fund, almost 80 percent of slips and falls due to snow and ice occur in parking lots and on sidewalks, with more than 50 percent occurring between 6 a.m. and noon. Snow removal must be done properly and promptly. A local snow removal business can be contracted for the winter months to keep walkways safe.
Customer safety should continue inside. Be sure floor mats and runners are at all entrances to absorb excess snow, water and salt. This prevents puddles or a build-up of salt, which cause slips, trips and falls.
What about employees who work outside?
When the snow falls and the temperature dips, it’s important to keep warm and stay dry, especially for any workers who are outdoors for any amount of time.
Recognize that working conditions have increased danger with the extreme temperatures, wet conditions and windy locations. Any signs of uncontrolled shivering, clumsy movements, disorientation, fatigue, slurred speech and/or confused behavior require immediate medical attention. Frostbite and hypothermia are serious conditions. Teach employees the signs, so at first indication the person can be brought to safety.
Other tips are:
- Proper attire for cold weather is a hat, gloves, scarf, several layers and a warm coat.
- Schedule work for the warmest part of the day.
- Work in pairs so one worker can recognize danger signs his or her partner displays.
- Drink warm beverages and avoid highly caffeinated and alcoholic drinks.
How can employers winterize vehicles?
When severe weather hits, it’s important to only drive when necessary. More than 50 percent of winter storm deaths are auto-related. If you or your employees must drive, do so when it is lightest out and always inform someone of the schedule, route and destination. Have all employees program emergency numbers and contact information into their phones.
Maintain full levels of fluids in vehicles at all times. Stock vehicles with a cold-weather kit containing a blanket, extra gloves, hat, sweatshirt, bottled water, first-aid kit, flashlight, snack and phone charger, as well as a folding shovel and a bag of salt or sand.
In the event of an accident, remind employees to stay calm, stop safely, turn on emergency lights and watch for oncoming traffic. Then, notify police and call an ambulance if required; be sure to always cooperate with authorities and police. Employees should take photos if it is safe to do so, exchange information with the other driver, and write a complete description of the accident while it is fresh in their mind.
You or your employees shouldn’t discuss accident details with anyone other than the police and your insurance company. Never agree to a phone recording or to give a signed statement to another driver’s insurance company without consulting your agent first. Never allow vehicles to be towed to an unfamiliar repair shop or authorize repairs by signing a tow release unless you’ve decided to have the vehicle repaired by the shop to which it is being towed.
Taking precautions early, and knowing the danger signs help prevent injury and loss. ●
Christine Hopkins is a client advisor at TriCounty Insurance Agency, a member of the SeibertKeck group. Reach her at (330) 336-3564 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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