Everyone knows the importance of caution when driving and working in winter’s dangerous wet and icy conditions. However, not everyone takes precautions. Reviewing effective winter safety measures with your workforce can help them stay safe, avoiding the human and economic costs generated by accidents.
Safe winter driving requires alertness, awareness of road conditions and an adjustment in driving techniques, say safety professionals, who offer the following advice. First and foremost is the importance of driving appropriately for conditions, particularly in unfamiliar areas and on curves and turns. Also vital is reducing speed at the first sign of trouble. As you would expect, driving too fast for conditions is the leading cause of winter driving accidents.
Drivers should start off slow and easy so as not to spin the wheels, and steer with smooth and precise movements. Jerky steering or quick lane changes can cause skidding, especially while braking or accelerating. When driving on icy or snowy roads, drivers should keep vehicles moving at steady speeds. Overpowering the drive wheels, or locking the wheels up, will cause spinning and skidding. Be extra cautious during the first few minutes of snow or rain, stress safety professionals. Roadways get slippery when precipitation mixes with oil, grease and dirt. Wet leaves can be particularly slippery and hazardous.
In addition, drivers need to be extra careful when approaching bridges and overpasses as they typically freeze first. Safety professionals say it takes three to 12 times more stopping distance on ice and snow. The heavier the vehicle, the greater the stopping distance. When driving under adverse conditions, they say drivers should slow down and leave a bigger safety cushion (distance) between them and the vehicle ahead. This allow drivers a better opportunity to react effectively if evasive action becomes necessary. Plus, increasing following distances helps drivers reduce visibility problems from spraying snow and ice.
It is a good idea for drivers to watch mirrors and antenna for ice buildup. Usually, when the mirror face or antenna become ice coated, the road surface will soon follow. Before starting a trip, safety professionals advise drivers to clean off the entire windshield and all windows, and wipe off the exterior lights. Being able to see clearly — as well as be seen — can prevent accidents. Driving with the lights on helps make a vehicle more visible, they say. Signal turns well in advance to give other drivers increased warning.
Braking on snow and ice is never easy, but as the temperature rises, snow and ice become even more slippery, note safety professionals. So brakes should be used cautiously. Furthermore, drivers are well-advised to look farther ahead in traffic than they normally do. Actions by vehicles ahead will alert drivers quicker to problems and give them extra time to react safely.
To stay safe and healthy when working in cold weather, workers ought to dress appropriately, counsel safety professionals. Air temperature doesn’t have to be below freezing to cause cold weather health problems. Wind speed, for example, can create dangerously cold conditions even when the temperature isn’t that low.
Urge workers to dress in layers, using clothing that will comfortably keep them warm and dry. By layering, a worker can add or remove clothing to adjust to changing conditions. Excess perspiration will increase heat loss, so extra layers of clothing should be removed whenever a worker feels too warm. Synthetic or wool socks and waterproof and insulated footwear should be worn to keep feet warm. Wet cold feet can make a person feel cold all over.
Slips and falls
As the temperature drops, the number of slips and falls rises. Taking some simple safeguards can help avoid these occurrences, according to safety professionals. Take your time, pay attention to where you’re going, and adjust your stride according to weather conditions, especially when carrying heavy items. Keep in mind that slippery ground doesn’t always appear slippery. When unsure of the ground’s surface, test it before walking on it. Stick one foot out in front and move it around on the surface of the ground to determine if it is slippery, and just how slippery. Another preventative measure is to wear appropriate winter footwear. Along with being well-insulated and waterproof, footwear should have non-slip, traction type soles to grip the ground. Footwear with good ankle support can help prevent a sprain or a twist in the event of slip. Wipe your feet before entering a building and before climbing steps, say safety professionals. When using staircases, use handrails and do not rush.
Certainly, the winter months are especially hazardous. However, being extra cautious and adhering to effective safety measures go a long way to keeping everyone safe.