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By: Thomas Carson

Reality TV and Other Things That Give Us Chills

One of the great joys of living in Colorado is the sometimes-dramatic fluctuation in weather that can create spectacular visuals. We recently went from daytime high temperatures in the 60s to single digits over the course of a few hours. By the next morning we were in a winter wonderland, all blanketed in a foot of snow with trees and bushes glittering as if covered by diamonds in the icy sunlight. Despite the sparkle, there is a dangerous downside to these kinds of sudden changes: people can be caught unprepared with catastrophic results.

Winter brings seasonal work hazards that require special attention to ensure the safety of workers. Colder weather can multiply the hazards associated with otherwise normal tasks.

For a vivid example of winter hazards to avoid, we need look no further than the classic cold weather safety TV series: Ice Road Truckers. Season after season, the “reality” TV drivers have battled it all from ferocious storms to freezing temperatures to bitter rivalries. {Will Lisa’s brakes recover before she plows off the ice-slick road – the guy filming her inside the cab sure hopes so…} Much like these truckers, workers on jobsites across the country encounter unscheduled and non-routine projects created by winter weather conditions. Like the drivers face, situations can become rushed and complicated. Times like this call for a well-developed Job Hazard Analysis, both to plan the steps required for successful completion of the job and to ensure that each task required can be performed safely.

Preparing for winter work means considering the consequences of exposure to freezing temperatures, reduced visibility, shorter periods of daylight hours, and possible loss of communications with others. Working safely in winter requires planning and an expectation that some tasks will require more time than when performed in fair weather. Workers need to be equipped to stay warm and well-hydrated in cold weather to mitigate the increased risks of working in the cold. Older workers are at higher risk in winter conditions. According to a study at the University of Washington, workers who are 65 and older have a 30% higher chance of falling than other age groups, even without ice and snow. In addition, older workers are more susceptible to hypothermia than younger workers.

Awareness of the ways in which winter conditions change the work environment will make those winter wonderland moments less dangerous and more productive. One way to develop more thorough awareness is better data capture. By putting safety in the palm of each front-line worker’s hands, they can easily report incidents and provide suggestions. Studies show that this kind of communication ability improves employee safety and workplace satisfaction. It also makes reporting and analysis simple for EHS management, which, in turn, leads to better safety outcomes and better financial results.

Don’t go another winter with manual paper records or an outgrown safety system. Take action and talk to us today so you will be up and running in a few months and next winter will not feel like a repeat season of reality TV.

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