While many of us can opt to stay home when winter weather comes to Missouri,
some workers in our state aren't so lucky. Utility workers, emergency
responders, highway workers, federal, state and local government personnel,
and other employees may find themselves on-the-job - whether they like
it or not - in wintry conditions. In fact, according to the Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are a number of particularly
dangerous workplace hazards that can present themselves in winter conditions.
In this post, our
workers' comp lawyers detail a few of the most common situations that lead to workplace injuries
in winter weather - and recommend a few proactive safety strategies.
Workplace injuries in winter weather: Three common scenarios
• Auto accidents due to poor road conditions. Many injuries that occur during winter storms are the result of motor
vehicle accidents. If your job requires you to drive in winter weather,
OSHA officials encourage you to be prepared. Check road and weather conditions
before you get behind the wheel - that way, you can plan the safest possible
route, and you won't be distracted while you're already trying
to deal with slick roads. (You can use the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Weather Radio or website; and the
Missouri Department of Transportation also provides up-to-date road condition information.)
In addition, be sure to winterize your vehicle by having its key systems
checked, especially your brakes and your tires. Also, it's wise to
carry an emergency kit containing essential supplies, just in case you
become stranded. You might include items like blankets, an ice scraper,
a shovel, flashlights (with spare batteries), jumper cables, non-perishable
food, water, etc.
• "Cold stress": Frostbite and/or hypothermia from cold
weather exposure. Approximately 20% of winter workplace injuries are caused by prolonged
exposure to the elements. The term frostbite refers to freezing in deep
layers of skin and tissue caused by the cold. Symptoms include a loss
of feeling in the affected areas, or a waxy-white or pale appearance in
the fingers, toes, nose or ear lobes. Hypothermia, which occurs when an
individual's body temperature drops below 95 degrees, can also produce
a number of symptoms, including uncontrollable shivering, slowed speech,
lapses in memory, stumbling, drowsiness and exhaustion.
Workers are encouraged to learn the signs and symptoms of these conditions
so they can be quickly recognized; to dress appropriately for outdoor
work; and to take regular breaks in a warm, dry environment.
Learn more by clicking here.
• Slips and falls on slippery walkways and surfaces. Snow and ice are two of the most common catalysts for slip and fall accidents
in the workplace. If you're working in wintry conditions, you'll
want to make sure you have appropriate footwear. OSHA officials recommend
wearing a pair of insulated boots with good rubber tread. When walking
on icy or snowy surfaces, be sure to take small steps and walk slowly,
just in case you lose traction.