In February of 2021, Texas experienced a winter weather storm that residents lovingly refer to as “Snow-mageddon” or “Snowpocalypse.” To put it mildly, that storm took an entire state by surprise. For one week, temperatures plunged below freezing while snow fell and ice covered the streets. The power grid failed and pipes burst, leaving much of the state without power and water. Hundreds of weather-related deaths can be attributed to the incident.
That record-breaking Texas storm was followed quickly by 60-70 degree weather, a range far more normal for the state, but for one week Texas was in a panic trying to combat unexpected winter weather conditions. Areas across the nation faced similar situations. While residents were working to stay warm without a power source, and clean drinking water, utility crews, truck drivers, safety personnel and other essential workers were on the job trying desperately to get The Lone Star State up and running.
Scenarios like Texas are dangerous because most people aren’t prepared with the necessary precautions to combat winter weather and are quickly caught off guard. On the other hand, states that do experience regular bouts of cold and ice can become complacent in dangerously cold weather. As temps begin to drop and snowy weather emerges, it is imperative that your business and employees are prepared for the possibility of inclement weather conditions that can lead to injury and death.
Don’t Slip on the Ice
Falls are one of the most common worksite accidents, and that’s true even when the ground is safe and dry. Adding the danger of icy weather increases those risks exponentially.
- Make sure surfaces are dry or covered with a nonslip agent like salt or sand
- Remove any walkway hazards that could elevate the risks of slipping/falling
- Make sure employees are wearing appropriate non-slip footwear and weather resistant clothing
Know the Signs of Hypothermia
Signs of hypothermia include shivering, disorientation and loss of physical coordination. Hypothermia can occur in cold weather above freezing temperatures. When you notice the signs of hypothermia, act quickly!
- Remove Wet Clothing
- Seek shelter in a warm, indoor area.
- Drink warm fluids
- Call for medical attention
Don’t Let Frostbite Set in
Always keep in mind that employees suffering from frostbite should be assisted and not allowed to use the affected area until released to do so by a doctor. Frostbite is a serious condition that can lead to amputation.
- Refrain from treating the area with direct heat appliances or by rubbing
- Warm the area gradually using warm water and maintain the elevated temperature.
- Call for medical attention
As Texas is now well aware, being prepared for winter storms can protect lives and property. If snow and ice are rare occurrences for your workforce, ensure everyone’s safety by having a policy in place long before the snow begins to fall. Not only will a preemptive plan reduce the possibility of injury or death, it will eliminate anxiety among your workforce who find themselves thrust into an unexpected situation.
Make sure your plan provides:
A general protocol for each job role-
Do admin and non-essential personnel follow the local school closures and work from home?
Will all essential employees come in during a crisis or work on an “on-call” basis?
Safety and emergency equipment-
Are workers who perform their duties while exposed to the elements equipped with proper safety equipment and clothing?
Are your employees trained to handle the most common or dangerous emergency scenarios?
Reliable Communication Channels-
Does every department have a single point of contact for communicating during a crisis?
Have you created a protocol for employees to follow when communication channels fail?
Workplace Safety Screenings - Stay Warm, Stay Safe
The best time to formulate answers to these questions is before a crisis happens! Workplace Safety Screenings can help you think through these procedures so that you are ready when bad weather hits.