A workplace should be a safe environment where you can feel at ease while you work. This is not always the case, as workplace injuries occur far too often. Pair that with the inclement winter weather, and the threat of a workplace injury only increases. With a rise in workplace accidents, certain types appear more than others when wintertime comes around.
Slip and Falls
Slip and falls are among the most common workplace accidents, especially in the winter. According to the National Safety Council, in 2019, slip and fall injuries accounted for 244,000 workers requiring days off to recover. Further, these workplace accidents resulted in the deaths of 880 workers.
How Do They Happen?
When a winter slip and fall accident occurs, ice or snow can be to blame. Slip and falls happen when someone loses their footing or balance, which can occur anywhere. A worker could slip and fall off a ladder, or an office worker might slip just by walking into the office.
Common causes of slip and falls in the winter include:
- Ice: An icy ground creates a slippery surface.
- Thin Layer of Snow: A thin sheet of snow can make the ground incredibly slick.
- Deep Snow: Trudging through deep snow can cause you to be off-balance.
- Melting Ice or Snow: If you come in from outside, wipe off your shoes or you may risk slipping from the moisture on the bottom of your shoes.
How Can I Prevent It?
Slip and falls are preventable if given the proper tools and equipment to protect yourself. For example, slip-resistant shoes ensure that any moisture will not cause your feet to slide along the surface. Walking in well-lit areas helps enable you to avoid hard-to-see patches of ice. If you have to use a ladder, make sure it can lock and shows no signs of wobbling.
Lastly, and most importantly, talk to your employer. Do not engage in any activities that you think are dangerous, given the weather conditions.
In an article by AAA, winter conditions account for almost 500,000 crashes and over 2,000 deaths per year. While some workers may be fortunate enough to work from home, others may have to commute every day. In addition to commuting, for many truckers, driving is the job. Practicing safe driving, especially in the winter, is detrimental to your safety and the ones around you.
Before You Drive
- Maintain Your Vehicle: Check your tire pressures and make sure they align with the vehicle standards. If needed, replace your windshield wipers and ensure the defrost system is working correctly.
- Check the Weather: Know the driving conditions before you leave. Be prepared for snow, ice and even fog.
- Stay Home: Ask your employer if you can work from home. Your safety is the most important thing.
Behind the Wheel
- Drive Slowly: It takes a car longer to stop in snowy or icy conditions.
- Increase Your Following Distance: Because it may take longer to come to a stop, you will need more room if needed.
- Follow Tracks: If visibility is poor, try following the tracks made by the vehicles ahead of you.
- Coast, Don’t Brake: If you feel your car begin to slide, do not apply your brakes. Coast the vehicle until you get over the patch.
- Turn Into It: If your car begins to spin, turn your wheel in the direction of the spin. Turning away will cause you to lose control of the vehicle and go into a full spin.
For those who spend most of their workdays outdoors, the cold weather itself is the danger. Rather than being alert and watching out for physical hazards like ice or snow, the primary concern for those outdoors is remaining warm. Prolonged exposure to the cold can result in dangerous and even life-threatening illnesses.
Frostbite is the freezing of the skin and the tissue underneath. At first, the affected area may only appear cold or have a tingling sensation, but numbness and discoloration will occur over time. Severe frostbite results in loss of mobility in joints or muscles, large blisters and extreme discoloration as the tissue turns black and dies.
Hypothermia is a condition where your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, causing an extreme drop in body temperature. Decreased body temperature affects the brain, causing confusion, memory loss and exhaustion. While most people can be at risk when it comes to conditions like frostbite, those who work long days outdoors, like roofers and construction workers, are even more at risk of hypothermia.
How Can I Stay Warm?
The first step in avoiding either frostbite or hypothermia is staying warm. Wearing the appropriate clothing for your working conditions ensures that you remain as insulated as possible, keeping your body temperature at healthy levels. Gloves, hand warmers, heavy socks and facemasks are all items of clothing that can help protect your most at-risk body parts from the elements.
If you think you are experiencing frostbite or hypothermia, seek immediate medical care.
Let Us Help You
In the event that you or someone you know suffers a winter workplace injury, the team at Gulf South Law Firm wants to know. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a workers’ compensation claim. Having a dedicated workplace injury lawyer ensures that you have legal representation advocating for your rights and fighting by your side.
Call our office today at (228) 231-3989 for a free and easy consultation with our workers’ compensation attorney.