The winter poses dozens of problems for warehouse and industrial workplaces. Not only does the temperature drop making it more expensive to heat your building, but there’s a higher risk of slips and falls. When one employee gets injured, there’s a slight delay in your production. When lots of employees get injuries due to winter-related hazards, you’re in trouble. To keep your business running efficiently all winter and to keep your workers safe, you need to actively avoid hazards.
Here are five ways to prevent winter workplace accidents.
1. Remove Ice From Walkways
Ice and snow maintenance is the first hazard you want to address. Perhaps you have a building maintenance team, or maybe you take care of it yourself. If you hire a crew to take care of the building, have a meeting with them to go over the importance of snow and ice removal. In a warehouse environment, the temperature isn’t always regulated in all work zones. You could have workers completing tasks outside where there’s snow or ice, or inside in areas vulnerable to snow and ice. For example, loading bays are notorious for getting icy during the winter months. This is an area that has high traffic and needs constant monitoring.
Make sure you have all the supplies available to get rid of snow and ice. That includes shovels, picks, and salt or sand. You should also have floor signs that notify people of potential ice or wetness. Inside any entryways to the building, do what you can to keep these areas dry. That might mean setting up floor fans and grip mats. There should be easy access to salt at every entrance and loading dock so employees can continue to keep the area safe as they work.
Slips and falls don’t always happen inside the warehouse or factory. Sometimes, they occur in the parking lot when employees are coming to work or leaving. It’s your job to make sure the parking lots get plowed and salted regularly during the winter. Discuss this with your maintenance team.
2. Beware Of Cold Stress Injuries
Some workplace injuries are specific to the cold winter months. These injuries, also called cold-stress injuries, include things like frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite occurs when body parts are exposed to the cold air for too long. This could happen if your workers aren’t wearing winter gloves while working outside in the winter.
Like burns from heat, frostbite burns can vary in degrees. First-degree frostbite is very painful to reheat, but is ultimately non-permanent. Second-degree frostbite includes blisters that develop a few days after the incident. There is often underlying tissue damage that needs treatment. Third-degree frostbite consists of the skin turning black as all the layers of flesh have been damaged. This is a sign that the flesh is dying and immediate medical help is required. Fourth-degree frostbite is just as devastating as third, only the bone and tendon have been damaged in addition to the flesh.
As you can see, frostbite injuries can seriously impact your employees’ ability to work.
Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature drops below 35 degrees Celsius. This could happen if your factory or warehouse doesn’t have adequate heating or your employees are working outside too long without warming breaks. The first signs of hypothermia are confusion, delusion, and poor decision-making skills. This is incredibly dangerous when your workers are using heavy equipment or machinery. In the later stages of hypothermia, the sufferer becomes so delirious they remove all their clothes, believing that they’re overheating. Eventual cardiac arrest is the outcome if they aren’t treated quickly.
How can you prevent these lethal injuries from happening to your workers? Start by ensuring the interior temperature of your warehouse is warm enough. Then, enforce more frequent breaks, especially for those working outdoors or in loading areas. If you work mainly outdoors, create a designated heating area where workers can go warm up on their breaks. For employees that are working outdoors offsite, check in often. Either through walkie-talkie or cell phone, check in to see if they need a break.
3. Provide Winter-Specific PPE And Clothing
Speaking of winter injuries, providing adequate winter clothing and PPE is your responsibility as the employer. Your team likely has t-shirts with the company logo that they wear year-round. In the winter, increase their wardrobes with jackets, hats, gloves, and sweaters. It’s also important that they wear proper footwear in the winter to prevent slipping.
You can’t place this responsibility on your workers to wear warmer clothing because any injury on your property is your liability. Make sure they always have access to warm outdoor clothing options in the workplace.
4. Hold Regular Safety Meetings (All Year Round)
You can learn a lot about potential winter safety hazards by talking with your team. Hold regular meetings with your employees to discuss any potential hazards that they’ve noticed. You don’t need to wait until an injury report is filled out to make safety changes. If a worker draws your attention to a hazard, fix it right away. During these meetings, go over health and safety protocol as well as safe equipment use. You’ll likely get lots of rolling eyes as you go over information that everyone knows, but refreshing is important. Go over the fire drill procedure as well as what to do if a piece of equipment malfunctions.
Pull out the incident reports from the last couple of winters. These can provide great insight into the most common winter accidents that your unique workplace experiences. If you know which injuries are most likely to happen, take steps now to prevent them. That could mean paying extra attention to the clutter that builds up in walkways. Or, notice if your workers have a bad habit of not wearing their seatbelts when driving the forklift.
5. Don’t Use Unsafe Equipment
This tip applies all year round in your workplace, but especially in the wintertime when there are more hazards. Broken or dysfunctional equipment shouldn’t be used.
As the employer, you need to get broken equipment either fixed or replaced before an unknowing worker decides to try and use it. That means telling your workers to notify you as soon as a machine starts acting up. They should also be using all safety equipment to protect themselves while using the machinery. For example, installing The Backbone to all your forklifts and lift trucks will prevent underriding injuries, reducing possible downtime and improving the safe working conditions of your employees.
Do your workers use a forklift without The Backbone? You can prevent racking collisions and underriding injuries by ensuring every worker knows how to use one.
To order The Backbone for your company, call us at Lakeport MetalCraft Inc today: (416) 587- 5809, ask for Norm Nopper.