Is Your Workplace Ready for the Winter Weather?

Tracey Harvie

November 28 2019

With December around the corner, many Canadian provinces can expect freezing temperatures and snow on the ground. While the drop in temperature and white powder set the scene for the upcoming holiday season, they can also create serious hazards that companies need to be aware of.

This article discusses the importance of recognizing and controlling winter weather hazards in the workplace.

How do I prepare my workplace for winter weather?

Although the Occupational Health & Safety Act varies slightly from province-to-province, the legislation holds employers/business owners responsible for maintaining their workplace.  To accommodate for winter conditions, employers can provide employees with flexible work arrangements. For instance, in the case of unfavorable weather (e.g., a snowstorm, slippery conditions, etc.) employers can give employees the option of working from home. This enables employees to still perform their job duties without having to traverse through dangerous weather conditions.

Furthermore, companies must be proactive in keeping office walkways and parking lots clear of snow and ice. Hazardous areas should be marked with signage (e.g., signs, cones, barricades or floor stands). These actions help prevent weather-related injuries, such as slips and falls.

What if I have outdoor workers?

Freezing temperatures, snow accumulation and ice, combine to make an environment where individuals are more susceptible to cold-related health problems. In addition to serious slips and falls, employers must be aware of issues such as frostbite and hypothermia.

An essential step in lessening the frequency of workplace incidents is educating workers on the signs associated with certain injuries, such as:

Hypothermia: shivering, drowsiness, lack of coordination

Frostbite: joint or muscle stiffness, cold skin that turns numb or pale

What does proper safety protocol look like?

Prevention starts by creating a culture of responsibility for all members of the company (both employer and employees). A company should reinforce safety protocol as well as safety responsibilities and expectations. General guidelines that companies can implement for winter weather are:

  • Identify potential workplace hazards: Inspect the workplace for potential hazards, review past incident reports and reflect on the influence of environmental conditions.
  • Establish controls to minimize the chances of each workplace hazard occurring: This involves removing access to dangerous areas, equipping employees with appropriate attire to protect workers from injury (e.g., make footwear with heavy treads mandatory for increased traction).
  • Keep record of all workplace incidents and continuously review workplace safety initiatives: This creates an atmosphere of security for employees when the employer is being intentional with improving workplace safety. Encourages them to assist the effort by reporting safety concern.

Still have questions on preparing your workplace for winter weather?

At Peninsula, our team of HR professionals can help you with drafting documentation and creating policies, as well as perform on-site audits to determine potential hazards in your workplace. For help preparing your workplace for the winter weather, call us today at: 1 (833) 247-3652.

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