The right PPE for winter is a must, but what else can be done to ensure winter safety is a priority for your workers?

Winter Safety: Taking the Bite Out of Old Man Winter

Leadership Employee Management

Winter safety is usually not something most of us worry about until something happens, but should be a priority in preparing employees for the season.

The National Weather Service, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are all proactive at promoting winter safety training and awareness. Each organization encourages safety in a variety of environments, from the home to the roadways to personal protection.

Severe cold weather can be just as hazardous for businesses. However, pre-planning and staff training can make the difference between mission accomplishment and abrupt mission interruption.

Handling Cold Weather Emergencies

There are rarely second chances when facing the hazards present during winter. Ready.gov suggests the following steps to help prepare your staff and business for cold weather emergencies:

  1. Assess the risk on an individual basis. This step is ongoing as weather conditions change frequently. Assessing risk includes evaluating and understanding the hazards facing every member of your staff. Some staff members will be at a higher risk factor based on their expected exposure to the elements. Contingencies are also an important consideration when assessing risk. If something should happen, there needs to be a plan B and, often, a plan C.
  2. Develop a mitigation/elimination plan for each risk. This may include purchasing snow cleats, developing a snow/ice removal plan and job-specific cold weather emergency training programs.
  3. Take action. Move forward with your plans, and make sure your staff understands their responsibilities within the plans. You’ll need to know that they are committed to wearing appropriate winter wear and following established procedures.

Training Your Staff for Winter Safety Emergencies

There are numerous training techniques which are effective at transferring short and long-term knowledge. Only a few of these training techniques are efficient at encouraging action from your staff. The key point to remember when developing any training program is keeping the goal at the forefront. Equip your staff to handle a variety of winter emergency scenarios by designing your training program with an end goal of transferring knowledge and encouraging affirmative action.

The following three field-tested techniques are common to the most impactful training programs:

  1. Keep it real; make it personal and memorable. Bring the training to life with real examples of what went right when things went wrong.
  2. Secure buy-in and involvement. Present the information from a staff member’s point of view. Ask staff members to share stories and to develop and present portions of the training.
  3. Keep it simple. Establish clear organizational expectations and reward positive action.

Winter safety is possible. All it takes is assessing the risk, developing the action plan and moving forward with an engaged, trained and empowered workforce.

J.A. Rodriguez Jr.
J.A. Rodriguez Jr.

J.A. Rodriguez Jr., CSP, is the CEO of Make My Day Strategies LLC and a global Fortune 100 senior manager. Rodriguez was honored to be selected by EHS Today Magazine as one of "The 50 People Who Most Influenced environmental, health and safety in 2012-2013" and "2014 - 2015."