The time is here to be reminded of the dangers that lurk in winter. Snow, freezing rain, ice, freezing temperatures and chill factor bring about a whole set of hazards unique to the season. Driving and roadways, shoveling, poor visibility, slips/falls, frostbite and hypothermia are but a few that come to mind. Add to that the holidays with prepared foods, parties and merriment, holiday “spirits,” and increased stress, the season brings with it a multitude of “goodwill toward men” and some not so “goodwill.”
Staying focused on work and tasks may be difficult in addition to whatever the weather brings to us. Anticipation of these issues and preparation for them help us maintain sanity, remain alert, and provide preventive measures for “survival” for us our co-workers.
Snow: Shoveling snow is more strenuous than running. The three major aspects of snow shoveling – resistance, not breathing properly during exertion, and cold air, combine to increase heart rate and blood pressure to levels that can be fatal.
Also, if shoveling improperly, our risk to back injury increases significantly. Poor positioning, twisting at the waist, lifting heavy snow on the end of a shovel, can adversely affect the lower back with muscle strain, ligament sprains, and possible vertebral and disc damage.
Snow also creates visibility concerns, slippery driving and walking conditions, and additional work hazards not normally part of our routine. Conveyor belts, for example, require snow removal prior to starting up. Heavy mobile equipment, such as loaders, excavators, and off-road haul trucks, require special attention, as well. Walkways, stairs, ladders, platforms, and other work access areas left unattended become dangerous, including the potential of exceeding structural safety limits. Additional time must be available to perform snow/ice removal and cleaning of these areas to protect the equipment and ourselves. Failure to account for such conditions can be catastrophic!
Freezing Rain and Ice: These conditions create havoc almost immediately at work and on the roads. Working surfaces and walkways become dangerously slick. Roads need only a thin layer of freezing rain pellets to start chain reaction accidents. Ice alone can create “black ice” – a potentially fatal condition on roadways that cannot be detected by the driver. Visibility becomes difficult, if not near impossible, through vehicle windows.
Prepare to drive in snow and ice. Allow more time; slow your speed and increase following distance behind other vehicles; thoroughly clean your windshield and windows for improved visibility. Use warm gloves (keep bare hands from frostbite) and sunglasses (glare can be extreme) for increased comfort and safety.
Prepare your vehicle – give the car a pre-winter tune-up; replace or recharge weak batteries; ensure all lights are working properly; check the radiator for sufficient antifreeze; use windshield washer fluid with alcohol so it will not freeze; replace wiper blades that streak; have an ice scraper available to remove ice from the windshield and other windows.
For emergencies, carry a shovel; sand or kitty litter for traction; jumper cables; a flashlight (that works!); blanket; warning devices, such as flares; a cellular phone.