With winter around the corner, hazards such as freezing temperatures, downed power lines and icy roads can affect workers, so it is important to prepare for winter storms before they arrive. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has resources for common winter weather hazards to help employers and workers stay safe.
Here are some best practices to remember as you prepare:
- Train workers. Employers need to identify potential winter hazards and provide necessary training.
- Prevent cold stress. Be sure to monitor workers’ physical conditions during tasks, especially new workers who may not be used to working in the cold. Train workers on cold stress hazards and prevention, provide engineering controls like radiant heaters, gradually introduce workers to the cold, monitor workers and schedule breaks in warm areas. Find more information on how to prevent cold stress in OSHA’s Cold Stress Safety and Health Guide.
- Dress appropriately. When cold weather conditions cannot be avoided, wearing the right clothing can help protect workers from cold stress:
- Stay dry – wet clothing chills the body quickly.
- Wear at least three layers of loose-fitting clothing. Layering provides better insulation.
- Wear hats, insulated gloves, and insulated, waterproof boots.
- Provide engineering controls or implement safe work practices. Use radiant heaters to warm outdoor workplaces such as security stations or curbside pick-up locations. If possible, employers should shield work areas from drafts or wind to reduce wind chill. Also, safely use aerial lifts or ladders to apply de-icing materials to roofs to protect workers from falling. See OSHA’s winter weather page for more safe work practices.
- Never use portable generators indoors. Check out OSHA’s guidance on properly working with generators. Safe generator use involves:
- Placing generators away from doors, windows or ventilation shafts where carbon monoxide can enter and build up with deadly consequences.
- Inspecting them for damage or loose fuel lines.
- Keeping them dry.
- Maintaining and operating generators according to manufacturer instructions.
Learn more about how to prevent injury and illness during a winter storm and find resources in English and Spanish.
If you have questions or concerns about workplace safety, contact OSHA online or by phone at 1-800-321-6742 (OSHA).
Loren Sweatt is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Follow OSHA on Twitter at @OSHA_DOL.