My guess is that many of you are starting to put together your winter safety talk agenda. In doing so, you face the challenge of relating information that is general and making it personally relevant to your workers. Let's take a look at some safety topics you'll want to cover during the winter season and how you can tailor the information to your own workers and workplace.
To get you started, you can rely on the general advice that my colleague, Ted Morrison, provided earlier this week on winter driving and 4WD vehicles. Here are some additional points that you can tailor to the particular circumstances of your workplace:
- Keep in mind that while black ice can form anywhere the temperature drops below zero, the condition is more prevalent in some parts of the country than others. Find out about the weather and road hazard patterns in your area.
- Consider personalizing the message by having a driving instructor talk to your workers about handling a skid and other driving skills.
- If your company has a driver training program, discuss it during your winter safety meeting.
- Prepare any of your workers who are professional drivers or commuters for the possibility of being stranded in bad weather. Remind everyone to carry winter clothing, including boots, gloves and hats, in their vehicles.
- If you don't live in the snowbelt, winter driving hazards aren't as much of a concern. However you can emphasize the special driving hazards associated with longer hours of darkness and weather such as rainstorms.
It's not just the road that's slippery in winter. Loading docks, stairways, equipment yards, parking lots and other areas of your plant or facility can also become icy.
- Adapt your safety meeting to the particular fall hazards that are common to your work crew. Do they have to get in and out of vehicles in icy weather? Must they walk along loading ramps to do their jobs?
- Check your worksite for areas that could be a particular hazard in the cold weather and discuss them in your meeting.
Effects of Darkness
The winter solstice around December 22 is the darkest time of the year. Outdoor workers are likely to be affected most by the increased darkness. But anyone who arrives or departs from work in the dark also needs reminding about special safety concerns, such as:
- Increased risk of slips, trips and falls; and
- Personal security risks.
Also, discuss with workers who use outdoor lighting around utility or construction jobs where flammable gas may accumulate the importance of using light devices designed for decreased sparking.
Effects on Tasks
Deliver a safety talk that addresses the particular risks cold weather creates on the specific tasks workers perform.
Example: A custodial job can start early in the morning in winter weather for plowing snow out of driveways and parking lots, making sidewalks safe for pedestrians, operating heating systems and dealing with frozen pipes before the work day starts for the rest of the staff. Those early hours can lead to dangerous fatigue. If you have custodial workers in your crew, talk to them about getting enough sleep and coping safely with early shifts.
Not only is it dark and slippery out there, but it's also cold. Next week, we'll look at some suggestions for your safety meeting on working in cold weather.
OSHA's New PPE Ruling
The new PPE ruling, like most OSHA standards appears to be very "fuzzy" and unclear.
For example, this article states: "The final rule contains exceptions for certain ordinary protective equipment, such as safety-toe footwear, prescription safety eyewear, everyday clothing and weather-related gear, and logging boots."
Does ordinary mean, if the employee's job does not requires safety-toe footwear or weather-related gear he/she can not, temporarily, work in an area in which safety-toed footwear or weather-related gear is required unless I provide the necessary PPE?
Or, does it mean if an employee purchases his or her safety footwear and/or weather gear, although it is not required for his/her job, I will have to reimburse him/her if I required them to temporarily work in an area that requires such PPE?
My experience in the past has been each OSHA representative interprets the wording in the Standards differently.
Maurice G. Holland
Director of Safety
Good question. Anyone want to hazard a guess? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know if we can use your name/company name with your note.
10 Things a Safety Trainer Never Hears
- Hey! Get up! It's MY turn to sit in the front row!
- Your safety talk was so exciting that I didn't notice it was 25 minutes over the scheduled time!
- Personally, I find inspecting my respirator so much more enjoyable than playing golf.
- As General Manager, I was going to recommend an additional $5,000 per month for wining and dining new customers; but I've decided to put the money into your safety budget instead.
- I volunteer to be the permanent teacher of the tail-gate safety talks!!!
- As a safety director, you're a valued part of our management team and, doggone it, you deserve to be paid like it so you can live like the other senior managers do.
- I love it when we have these management safety awareness meetings!!!!
- Hey! Now THESE are some really cool safety glasses!
- The plant manager would like to send you to a two-week safety seminar in the Bahamas, if that's okay with you.
- Nothing inspires me and strengthens my commitment in the morning like seeing that lime green "SAFETY FIRST" fob on my key ring!
"Hey Bob! Can I inspect all the forklifts today? Just to be thorough... PLEASE???
Ralph B. White
Safety and Maintenance
Smith Industries, Midland Texas
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