Advice to cut down on winter work hazards

Winter offers special challenges in terms of workplace safety, especially for those that have to spend time outside in cold and snow, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Michigan Workers’ Compensation Agency advises.

No employer can control the elements. So employers and employees need to take extra steps to guard against the risky conditions winter can bring.

“Every employer’s safety and health program should address protection of their employees from hazards due to extreme weather,” MIOSHA Director Bart Pickelman said. “Providing appropriate equipment and training for adverse weather conditions is key to protecting a company’s most valuable asset, its workers.”

Ensuring workplace safety makes good business sense, too, officials said.

“Worker injuries can negatively affect a business’s bottom line, resulting in increased workers’ compensation and insurance costs, overtime, and lost work days for employees,” WCA Director Mark Long said. “By taking the proper safety precautions this winter, job providers can protect workers from nasty slips and falls, and illnesses that will cost them and their employees in the future.”

Lower workers’ comp costs save Michigan employers on overhead expenses and give them additional resources to grow their business, hire new workers and increase their employees’ salaries.

For better workplace safety:

•Keep all walkways cleared of ice and snow; use de-icing materials.

•Clearly mark and light all walkways and passageways.

•Take slow, small steps to walk safely on slippery surfaces.

•Avoid carrying heavy loads that may offset your balance.

temperatures may be at risk of cold stress, which occurs by driving down the skin temperature and eventually the internal body’s core temperature. This can lead to serious health problems, including frostbite and hypothermia; know the symptoms and the first aid steps to address these conditions.

Workers’ risk factors that can contribute to cold stress are wetness/dampness, inadequate dressing for cold weather, and exhaustion. Workers with pre-existing health conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes or cardiovascular disease; who are in poor physical condition; or who are taking certain medications can also be at higher risk for cold stress.