Winter Weather Creates Hazards for Workers
Each year, thousands of employees miss at least one day of work due to injuries caused by ice, sleet, or snow. Many of these injuries are caused by slip and fall accidents, which account for more than 15 percent of all accidental fatalities, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In the extreme cold of January, at least 21 people have died from exposure to the cold.
OSHA has not published specific standards for employers when their employees must work outside in the winter. However, it does provide safety guidance for various scenarios, including the following:
- Driving in snow and ice
- Shoveling snow
- Removing snow from rooftops
- Working near downed power lines
Employers should ensure that company vehicles are prepared for extreme weather conditions. This includes proper maintenance of brakes, lights, defrosters, and windshield wipers, as well as providing emergency kits with ice scrapers, flashlights, flares, blankets, and other items.
Workers required to shovel snow face risks of exhaustion and dehydration, as well as back injuries and heart attacks. Employers should allow these workers to take frequent breaks in warm areas. Extra precaution should be taken when removing snow from rooftops. For example, workers could easily fall if they cannot see skylights or other hazards buried under the snow. Other general recommendations for employers include:
- Clear ice and snow from walkways and apply de-icing compounds
- Instruct workers regarding proper footwear that is insulated, water-resistant, and has good traction
- Allow workers enough time to move from place to place so they are less likely to fall
No one can change the weather. However, employers have a responsibility to help workers prepare for winter weather hazards and protect them as much as possible from the additional risks posed by freezing temperatures.
If you or a loved one is suffering from a serious work-related injury or illness, contact the Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Gross & Kenny, LLP. We will obtain the compensation you rightfully deserve. For a free consultation, fill out our online contact form or call us at 215-512-1500. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania.