Winter hazard control program: Preparing your business
Hazardous winter weather poses dangers to everyone, but it presents specific risks to businesses. The financial impact of not preparing for winter storms or extreme cold weather events can be severe. The loss when employees or co-workers become victims of weather-related events can be devastating.
Statistics indicate more people are injured or killed during the winter months than other times of the year.1 According to the National Weather Service, 70 percent of injuries due to ice and snow result from vehicle accidents. Other causes of deaths and injuries include heart attacks from shoveling snow, hypothermia from prolonged exposure to the cold, and frostbite.2 The National Safety Council estimates that job-related falls cause over 1,500 deaths and about 300,000 injuries per year.3 Needless to say, the presence of ice, snow or water accumulated from melting ice and snow greatly increase the chances of slips and falls.
Winter weather also challenges buildings and other property with exposures to freezing temperatures, accumulations of snow, and high winds associated with winter storms.
One way to help reduce the chance of accidents and property damage is to have a winter hazard control program in place. All businesses should have a written program that includes information and preparation checklists to help mitigate any unexpected damage or harm to their:
- Walking surfaces and
The program should address actions to be taken before the onset of cold weather, as well as various periodic evaluations that should be conducted during cold weather. The program should use checklists or similar documents to capture periodic evaluations, identify needed improvements and verify the actions taken.
Each of these areas is discussed in more detail in the downloadable white paper with checklists.
Buildings provide a controlled environment in part intended to eliminate the adverse effects of winter weather. Buildings and their various systems maintain warmth, exclude cold air, manage accumulations of snow and ice, and avoid freeze damage. Failures of roofs, windows, doors, heating, electrical and fire protection systems can expose buildings to both freeze damage due to cold intrusion and liquid damage during the ensuing thaw.
The potential for slip and fall accidents increases during winter months. While you cannot completely eliminate snow and ice, there are things that you can do to reduce slip and fall exposures.
The risk from slips, trips and falls does not end when the storm is over, but extends to warming conditions. Most people are more cautious walking during storms, but the daily thaw and night freeze cycles create more slick surfaces. The walking surfaces that you have treated with salt or sand will probably need to be treated again, and you will need to monitor all entryways for wet floors.
It’s important to prepare your employees for the rigors of winter weather.
- Review National Weather Service alert terminology with employees.
- Set up a notification system so employees are aware of facility closures.
- Train employees who work outdoors of the signs and symptoms of cold weather exposure.
- Educate employees to stay home when sick.
Contractors may be hired for various activities associated with your preparation for winter weather.
- Carefully review all contracts for snow removal for adequate levels of insurance.
- Verify that contracts for snow removal are established when action is to begin.
When you select an outside contractor for snow removal on roofs, sidewalks or parking areas, it is important to review the contracts to verify that adequate levels of insurance are in place. Certificates of insurance should be obtained from all contractors for both workers’ compensation and general liability. Make sure that coverage is provided for any property damage or bodily injuries caused by contractor employees or their operations.
Vehicles undergo a lot of stress during winter weather.
- Review winter driving safety measures with each driver.
- Verify that emergency supplies are provided in each vehicle.
- Winterize each vehicle.
During cold weather:
- Have employees maintain fuel levels above a half tank.
As winter approaches, reduce the chance of accidents, injuries and property damage by being prepared with a comprehensive winter hazard control plan.
The plan should be written down and distributed widely. It should address buildings, walking surfaces, employees, vehicles and contractors. The plan should indicate actions to be taken before the onset of cold weather, during cold weather and during winter storm events.
The plan should include checklists or similar documents to capture periodic evaluations, identify needed improvements and verify the actions taken.