No one enjoys being forced by bad weather or other winter hazards to “live off the grid.” And for businesses, losing electricity, water, or sewer can be a real threat to productivity. It’s bad enough when this happens in the summer, but this time of year, winter hazards can quickly turn into full-blown winter emergencies.
Let’s talk about what businesses can do to prevent some of the most common workplace winter hazards and options for dealing with some worst case scenarios.
1. Building Awareness
One of the most important preventative measures businesses can take is to remind all workers to be aware of their surroundings. It’s always smart to do a routine winter assessment of your facilities and draw attention to areas that are susceptible to winter hazards. Look for any sign of leaks and flooding and report it right away.
Additionally, during cold winter months, employees should be extra careful about closing doors and windows. Beyond concerns about heating costs and staff comfort levels, one major concern with leaving doors and windows open is the possibility of pipes, such as those in the building sprinkler system, freezing and breaking. This is an extremely disruptive and costly event, even in the best of cases.
What to do if a flood occurs:
If a flood occurs, take immediate action. Having a plan in place and making sure that all employees know what to do in the event of a water emergency is key. At a minimum, your flood hazard plan should include the following steps:
- Get all employees out of the immediate area, so they are not injured by electrical or other hazards.
- Shut off the water. Make sure that key personnel have access to and can identify the main water shut-off valve(s) for the building before an emergency happens.
- Mitigate the damage. Move damaged equipment and other objects to dry areas and do what you can to save any property. Before testing electrical equipment that has been exposed to water, consult with IT or facilities professionals. Keep in mind that just because a piece of equipment got wet doesn’t mean it won’t work again.
If there is a serious water loss event, such as a water main break, it’s possible that the building’s water source will need to be shut down for days or even weeks. For business owners, this sounds like a complete nightmare, but you have options besides sending everyone home. Blue Ribbon Restrooms has gotten clients out of this exact jam many times before by placing premium restroom trailers and shower trailers onsite. Your employees will be back to work in no time without sacrificing the comforts normally available to them.
2. Using Power Equipment like Snowblowers and Space Heaters
To protect workers from electric shock, make sure all power equipment, such as snow blowers and space heaters are properly grounded. When performing maintenance on this equipment, make sure it’s disconnected from power sources.
Snow blowers can cause lacerations or amputations if workers attempt to clear jams without first turning off and disconnecting from power. Never attempt to clear a jam by hand. First, turn off the machine and wait for all moving parts to stop. Then use a stick to clear away any wet snow and debris keeping hands and feet away. If you need to refuel a snow blower, make sure the machine is not running and the engine has cooled down completely.
Everyone knows how dangerous portable space heaters can be, if not used properly. Still, space heaters can do wonders for areas of buildings that are especially difficult to heat. If an area cannot be adequately heated using the building’s heating system and a space heater must be used, make sure to follow the safety tips below:
- Only use heaters that are Underwriters Listed (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) certified for their intended use.
- Only use units with a thermostat so they automatically shut off when the room reaches the desired temperature.
- Only use heaters with a tip over automatic shutdown feature.
- Keep all heaters at least 3 feet away from combustible materials, e.g., curtains, file cabinets, desks, trash cans, paper boxes, etc.
- Do not place heaters under desks or in other enclosed areas.
- Never plug heaters into extension cords. Use wall outlets only.
- Keep space heaters away from exits, walkways, aisles, and other high traffic areas.
- Do not use space heaters in wet areas like kitchens and restrooms.
3. Slips, Trips, and Falls
Finally, during the winter months, slips, trips, and falls can occur both inside and outside of buildings. Taking the proper safety precautions can help everyone avoid injuries and illnesses associated with winter hazards.
Inside, wet or snowy conditions can create slick floors too. Slips and falls are a leading cause of workplace injuries, so it’s important to take precautions to keep everyone safe.
- Place signs promptly.
- Clean up any wet areas.
- Encourage employees to wear proper footwear (rubber soles are best).
- Keep floors as clean and dry as possible and pay attention as you walk.
- Remove any obstructions (e.g., umbrellas, boots, bags, etc.) from the floor.
Obviously, there are some outside areas that will be unavoidably hazardous as the weather turns colder. Snow and ice will build on roads, sidewalks, and in parking lots. While you should certainly have staff shovel walkways and put down ice melt pellets in slick or hazardous areas, depending on the conditions, these areas will remain dangerous. “Black ice” can be especially dangerous because it is not easily visible.
So, it’s important to always remind both workers and visitors to use care when walking and driving anywhere on the property. Remind employees to leave earlier than usual whether heading from home to work, work to home, or between job sites to allow extra time to arrive safely at their destinations.
Make sure your whole team knows who to contact if they observe a trouble spot anywhere on the property. A little forethought and effort will make sure those winter hazards don’t wreak havoc in your office.
Do you have a special event coming up? Blue Ribbon Restrooms is ready to make your guests feel like VIPs. Our luxury restroom trailers are climate controlled and offer all the comfort of indoor facilities without the hassle. It’s quick, convenient, and worry-free. Call us today at 888-498-6982 to talk about your needs.