Winter work safety: how to avoid danger zones

Snow and ice will once again become workplace hazards as temperatures in the Midwest drop over the next few months. The weather can cause a wide range of potential injuries regardless of whether you mainly work outside or inside.

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last year that winter weather was, at least in part, responsible for 42,480 workplace injuries during 2014. Out of that amount, 1,720 happened here in Illinois. Now is the time to review safety tips that will protect you from slipping, freezing and sliding.

Ice patches are a common source of major injuries and, in some cases, death. Slipping on ice may seem comical or embarrassing, but many people have broken their bones upon landing. The fall could even damage your spine and brain, leading to devastating health problems.

There are ways to reduce the risk of a winter workplace injury, including:

  • While walking between your vehicle and your workplace, be aware of large patches of ice on sidewalks and roads. Wear shoes with good traction, especially if you often walk outdoors during the workday.
  • Make sure your employer provides the proper equipment and winter gear for colder temperatures to prevent frostbite and hypothermia. Employers are responsible for keeping the workplace safe, according to Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) laws.
  • As a frequent pedestrian or a driver during work hours, remember that slowing and stopping a vehicle takes much longer in slippery conditions. Do not try to cross the road too quickly when a car approaches. Make sure that the car has stopped so that you can safely cross.
  • Let others know about dangerous ice patches. Report hazards or use cones to draw attention to risky areas.

This winter, if you encounter a workplace injury due to snow, ice or even employer safety negligence, seek medical care. Minor falls can lead to major problems, so see a doctor in addition to asking your lawyer about compensation to cover the medical bills.