Working in a Winter Wonderland
When the weather outside is frightful, it’s a good time to be reminded of the hazards that we face in the workplace in the winter months.
Slip and Falls
Slip and falls make up about 15% of all work injuries annually and the frequency of slip and falls goes up in the winter months. Serious injuries can occur in a slip and fall, so take these simple precautions to minimize the risk:
- Wear supportive footwear that provides stability and traction.
- Take small, slow, and deliberate steps.
- Avoid ice whenever possible. If you can’t avoid it, approach slowly, so you can test your footing.
- Take your hands out of your pockets. If you slip you will need your hands and arms to break your fall.
- If you are carrying a load, be prepared to ditch the load if you slip. Using your hands and arms will help you avoid more serious injuries.
Snow Shoveling Injuries
Snow shoveling is not only a dreaded chore, it can also be very hazardous. Among snow shoveling injuries, the lower back is the most often injured area of the body. And, though lower in frequency than low back injuries, cardiac-related injuries are much more serious. Before you pick up a shovel, follow these tips for avoiding injuries:
- Warm up with light exercise and stretching before you start. Snow shoveling is quite a workout.
- Pace yourself and take frequent breaks.
- Use a shovel that is ergonomically designed to reduce bending and lifting.
- Push snow – don’t lift it.
- Don’t twist. Always turn your whole body to a new direction.
- Take cold stress injury precautions (below).
Cold Stress Injuries
Cold stress injuries occur when the body is unable to warm itself due to a combination of low temperatures, high winds, and wetness. Cold stress injuries, such as frostbite, can be permanent and even cause death. Take these steps to reduce the risk of cold stress injuries:
- When working in the cold keep this in mind, “Fingers, toes, face and nose.” Make sure all are protected, as they are most prone to frostbite.
- Layer clothing so you can adjust to temperature changes throughout the workday.
- Stay dry. Replace wet clothing with dry clothing, as soon as possible.
- Take frequent short breaks in warm, dry shelters to allow your body to warm itself.
- Drink warm beverages.
- Avoid caffeine or alcohol.
Snow Blower Injuries
During the winter months, workplaces see an increase in the number of amputations and lacerations due to the use of snow blowers. Injuries to the hands are not the only injuries caused by snow blowers. Consumer Reports offers these safety tips when using a snow blower:
- NEVER unclog the auger/chute with your hand.
- Wear protective headgear and eyewear – snow blowers often throw ice, gravel, etc.
- Wear hearing protection.
- Don’t refuel a hot gas model engine.
- For electric models, use an appropriate outdoor extension cord with a ground-fault-circuit-interrupting (GFI) feature.
- Keep the electrical cord away from the auger
Dehydration is the loss of fluid from your body. We commonly think of being dehydrated in the dog days of summer, but working outside in the winter leaves you susceptible to dehydration, as well. Cold air and wind chill can increase the risk of dehydration along with sweating and shivering. Follow this advice to avoid winter dehydration:
- Drink plenty of water – don’t gulp – take small sips.
- Choose decaffeinated beverages.
- Add in a sports drink to replace electrolytes lost during activity – just watch for hidden caffeine.
- Avoid alcohol.
- When you “go” check the color of your urine. If it’s a dark color, you need more fluid.
We hope you have a safe and healthy season. Philadelphia winters are harsh and hazardous. If an accident should happen, call Banks Law. We will get you the workers compensation you deserve.. 215.561.1000.