Cold Weather Safety Mitigation
by William T. Paletski PE, CSP
Senior. Environmental, Health & Safety Consultant
East Coast Risk Management
As winter descends there are heightened safety considerations within manufacturing workplaces. This time of the year presents unique challenges due to plummeting temperatures.
For Workplace Safety Managers, it’s critical to underscore the potential risks associated with cold weather. With temperatures dropping below freezing (32°F) in many portions of the U.S., attention to safety protocols becomes imperative, particularly for workers exposed to cold environments. Cold stress is a prevalent concern, with the potential to lead to hypothermia, a severe condition that can tragically result in fatalities. Moreover, it can exacerbate preexisting chronic conditions such as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases which may result in death. Persons with conditions that impair body & organ function and those taking various medications are more susceptible to cold effects. Others can easily get chilblains, trench foot, or frostbite which can lead to medical treatment.
The manufacturing workplace is not immune to winter-related hazards such as slips, trips, and falls. Employers should apply snow melt/salt to areas around parking lots, between cars, sidewalks, and steps. The Illumination of walking surfaces also plays a huge role here. One of the main hazards in the wintertime is the slippery ground from the buildup of snow and ice. Surfaces become slippery with the accumulation of snow and ice, and without proper footwear and walking defensively, slips are inevitable. Slowing down when walking on snow and ice-covered surfaces should be encouraged, as well as knowing and watching where you are walking, especially around parking lots where snow removal is problematic.
Walking surfaces indoors can also be slippery due to individuals tracking snow and ice into the facility where eventually it melts near doors, docks, and entrance hallways. To manage this situation, facility personnel should assign individuals (typically maintenance staff) to anticipate and recognize these situations and have plenty of ice melt available. Ensure your staff are protected from the cold temperatures by wearing multiple layers of clothing, hats, and good wool or wool-blend socks. Encourage the use of water-resistant, wind-blocking outer layers and the keeping of feet dry by wearing good boots or waterproof shoes.
Finally, use the buddy system when working in severe cold weather environments, especially at night or early morning periods. Working in pairs helps to ensure that someone recognizes danger signs and is ready for unexpected incidents.
Winter is here, be ready for it and keep safety in mind.
U.S. Department of Labor / OSHA
Winter Weather Hazards & Precautions
About the author:
William T. Paletski, PE CSP brings over 37 years of EHS experience to employers of all sizes. Bill has worked with MRC since 1998, helping companies across the region in workplace safety, environmental compliance, and risk management. Bill has worked in manufacturing, municipal government, and private consulting. He has degrees from Wilkes College/University and Penn State University. Bill is a Board-Certified Safety Professional and a Licensed Registered Professional Engineer. Currently he is a Sr. EHS Consultant for East Coast Risk Management.
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