Do you live and work in Minnesota? Then you likely know that this state is one of the coldest U.S. states every winter. With the cold comes multiple workplace hazards. While snow poses a significant fall risk, even work environments that are snow-free see more falls in winter. This is because the cold weather can drain your energy and reduce blood circulation, causing your feet to lose sensation and prevent your toes from maintaining your balance.
Authorities say a significant percentage of occupational fatalities and serious injuries result from slip-and-fall accidents. Reportedly, falls are the primary cause of workplace deaths and lost workdays for those who survive fall accidents but suffer injuries.
While employees in the material moving, transportation and production industries may be at the highest risk, slip-and-fall hazards are present in all sectors. By taking the following precautions, your employer can create a safe environment that could protect you and your co-workers from harm this winter:
- Create a clean-up policy — Establish a safety culture with policies that all employees understand. Equip them with the proper equipment and tools, such as shovels and snow blowers to remove ice and snow, and provide training to teach them the safety guidelines as prescribed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
- Identify hazards — Identify potential slip-and-fall hazards that can include standing water, uneven surfaces and low-traction or metal flooring. Vigilance among all could identify danger-spots, allowing you to eliminate potential hazards as soon as somebody identifies them.
- Evaluate all current lighting — Examine the provision of light in all areas. Improve lighting in low-visibility spaces where it can potentially result in accidents. It might be wise to post signs to alert workers of the low-visibility risk where improvement is impossible.
- Establish clean-up expectations — Set expectations for all staff members to clean up any spills and report hazards immediately.
Mind the obvious
When it comes to workplace safety, employers often expect workers to have enough common sense to mind the obvious safety risks. However, reminding them of the following may prevent catastrophes:
- Distractions — Texting while working can be as dangerous as texting while driving. Walking in snowy and icy areas with eyes glued to a cell phone screen can cause a fall accident.
- Dress — Although it is important to be warm, avoid loose clothing. Moving machine parts can catch scarves, gloves, bulky coats and the drawstrings of hoodies.
- Shortcuts — Cutting corners in winter conditions can be life threatening. Carrying loads that limit visibility rather than walking more than once may not be a worthwhile shortcut. Also, double check safety such as the secure placement of a ladder or other objects on icy surfaces.
If worse comes to worse
If your employer does not promote winter safety, and your work environment is a danger zone of ice and snow, you might end up suffering the consequences of a slip-and-fall accident. After getting the necessary medical attention, your first step should be to report the incident to your employer, which would start the ball rolling for a workers’ compensation benefits claim. Experienced legal counsel could assist you in your pursuit of benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages.