by Brianna Crandall — February 1, 2019 — The US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reminds employers and facilities managers (FMs) to stay vigilant when it comes to weather-related hazards that can put employees — particularly facilities/maintenance staff clearing snow, and others who regularly work outdoors — at risk when temperatures plummet in winter months.
Slippery roads and surfaces, frigid temperatures, and carbon monoxide fumes from engines, generators, and heaters are among the hazards that can lead to employee injuries and illnesses during the season, such as carbon monoxide poisoning or bruises or broken bones from slips and falls.
Working outdoors in excessively cold and windy environments or without adequate protection — such as thermal clothing, gloves, and hats — can cause significant loss of surface and internal body temperature, which may lead to frostbite or other serious health conditions.
Cold environments also increase risk factors associated with physical exertion, including dehydration, and existing health conditions, including muscle strains and heart attacks.
Safety resources for winter hazards
OSHA offers winter weather resources to help protect employees from cold stress and hazards that are present when clearing heavy snow around workplaces and from rooftops, driving on icy roads, and coming across downed power lines.
OSHA says employers should:
- Perform preventive maintenance and inspect equipment before use;
- Monitor carbon monoxide levels in workplaces;
- Operate gas-powered equipment only in well-ventilated areas;
- Prevent blockages in ventilation and exhaust systems after snowfalls and when ice forms; and
- Train workers and monitor their physical condition during tasks.
OSHA’s Winter Weather resources explain the effect of cold temperatures on the body, provide guidelines for training workers and preparing equipment, and explain winter-related hazards to watch out for. Resources include OSHA Quick Cards and Fact Sheets.