While it might cause us to shudder to think, winter is just around the corner. And the freezin’ season, of course, comes with its own set of challenges.
Driving in cold weather, carbon monoxide exposure from using generators inside, shoveling snow and clearing roofs, fires, and slips and falls are just some of the hazards posed by winter weather and our responses to it.
The OSHA’s online page about winter hazards, https://www.osha.gov/dts/weather/winter_weather/hazards_precautions.html includes guidance for driving, dealing with stranded vehicles, shoveling snow and using powered equipment such as snow blowers, preventing slips on snow and ice, working near or repairing downed or damaged power lines, and removing downed trees.
The Ready.gov webpage at https://www.ready.gov/winter-weather offers a number of tips and precautions to take before driving in winter weather conditions, especially if watches or warnings have been issued. Some of those include:
-Keeping the gas tank full to keep the fuel line from freezing.
-Letting someone know your destination, route, and when you expect to arrive.
-Keeping a cell phone or other emergency communication device with you.
-Packing your vehicle with an emergency kit that includes thermal blankets, extra winter clothes, a basic tool kit, (including a good knife and jumper cables), an ice scraper and shovel, flashlights or battery-powered lanterns with extra batteries, and high calorie, nonperishable food and water.
-Having a supply of material such as rock salt or sand for extra traction beneath tires.
When it comes to strenuous activities to do in the snow, few compare to shoveling the white stuff. Anyone shoveling snow may become exhausted, dehydrated, and/or experience back injuries, or heart attacks. With those possibilities in mind, a recommended practice before shoveling is to warm up first. That means scooping small amounts of snow at a time and pushing the snow rather than lifting it. "The use of proper lifting technique is necessary to avoid back and other injuries when shoveling snow: keep the back straight, lift with the legs and do not turn or twist the body," OSHA advises.
When removing snow from roofs and working at heights, OSHA recommends employers evaluate snow removal tasks for hazards. That includes planning how to do the work safely and how workers can be protected from hazardous work conditions, preferably by using snow removal methods that do not call for workers to venture out onto roofs. Employers should determine the right type of equipment and PPE (personal fall arrest systems, non-slip safety boots, etc.) for the job and make sure that workers are trained on how to use them properly.
To prevent slips and falls on snow and ice, employers should clear walking surfaces of snow and ice and spread deicer as soon as possible after a winter storm. Proper footwear is a must for walking on snow or ice. OSHA notes that a "pair of insulated and water resistant boots with good rubber treads is a must for walking during or after a winter storm. Keeping a pair of rubber over-shoes with good treads which fit over your street shoes is a good idea during the winter months. Take short steps and walk at a slower pace so you can react quickly to a change in traction, when walking on an icy or snow-covered walkway."