Winter Safety for Pennsylvania Workers
Here in the northeast, we grow accustomed to winter weather and the impacts it has on our lives. It can become routine to live here after twenty, thirty, or fifty winters, and some of the things we do to adjust may become normal enough that we don’t consider how dangerous the conditions really are. It is, however, deeply important for employers to stop and seriously examine the ways winter will affect their operations and the safety of their employees and anyone doing business on their site.
Workplace Winter Safety Guidelines
IMPO (Industrial Maintenance and Plant Operation) Magazine has provided a quick list of things employers should consider during the winter months. The first is an Emergency Action Plan. As noted in the article, OSHA requires that every workplace with 10 or more employees have a plan in place for dealing with emergencies. To effectively create and test an emergency plan, IMPO suggests taking serious consideration of the ways seasonal weather can impact business, including power outages, strong winds, and snow. The plan should also include information for employees on whom to contact in the event of various kinds of emergency, how to contact them, and what constitutes an emergency in the first place. To ensure the plan works, it needs to be tested with planned drills, and information on the plan needs to be provided to all employees.
IMPO also recommended performing a Job Hazard Analysis, a survey of the workplace for any dangers that may arise due to unique winter conditions. This includes a careful walk-through of the site, identifying any potential problems, and ensuring they are either corrected or properly prepared and visibly labeled. Correcting these problems may include altering practices, and should be fully explained to employees. One significant threat to employee health and safety during the winter is cold-related illnesses, and it is advised that employers help their employees avoid conditions that encourage these illnesses. This includes ensuring employees are adequately prepared for the weather, work in teams to watch one another for signs of illness, follow proper hand-washing procedures, and do not spend excessive periods of time outdoors in extreme cold.
While IMPO is primarily focused on site-specific concerns, employees may be in danger of injuries on the clock while outside the workplace. As such, OSHA’s advice about adjusting for weather covers a great deal of vehicle and outdoor concerns. This includes advice about winter driving, including important supplies to have in vehicles and what to do in the event of a breakdown. They raise concerns about strenuous work performed during the winter, as the cold weather increases the strain on a person’s heart during periods of high activity such as shoveling and pushing vehicles. Heights, icy walkways, fallen trees and power lines, and equipment such as snow blowers are also discussed in some detail. The general thrust of OSHA’s advice, however, is that employee safety must be of the highest importance and employers must be aware of the dangers presented by winter conditions and adjust expectations accordingly.
Employees have a responsibility to care for their safety, but employers are held to high standards about how well they prepare for and address threats to employee safety. Winter presents unique, but largely predictable, dangers to employees. Therefore, serious consideration and effort must be put into keeping workers safe. And when they don’t, and employees suffer workplace injuries because of it, those employees have a right to demand justice. If you are a victim of workplace negligence, contact us today to find out how we can help.