Employer Responsibilities During Winter Weather – Snow Days Aren’t Fun Anymore
Updated: Jan 17, 2019
Remember snow days when you were a kid and the excitement you felt knowing how much fun you were going to have playing in the snow with your friends? Well, keep those memories warm in your heart because the reality of a “snow day” as an adult and as a business owner is a whole different story.
Now, if you own a snow plowing business a snow day means a good week for your business and your sub-contractors. But with rising salt costs, distracted drivers, and so many other hazards, a snow day means more risk to your business.
While some winter workplace and driving accidents are out of your control as an employer, many can be avoided through clear policies, procedures and safety training. In this article, I will highlight the risks involved during winter conditions for all types of business owners.
The number one thing that will help you comply with OSHA regulations, keep your employees safe and reduce your liability as a business is to prepare.
1. Proper Safety Training: Your biggest concern should be the safety of your employees. This is especially important for any job that involves employees who work outside and are exposed to winter conditions. Your employees should understand the dangers of exposed skin, insufficient protective wear and cold/wet/slippery equipment. They should be trained to recognize the signs of cold-weather illnesses and injuries, and be prepared to treat such incidents.
Here are some precautions that employees should take:
Take breaks to get warm
Drink plenty of fluids
Avoid smoking, which constructs blood flow to skin
Stretch cold muscles before physical work
Wear protective gear (Note: OSHA only requires for employers to provide protective gear that is out of the ordinary and that does not include the items mentioned below.)
Three layers of clothing: a layer close to the skin that wicks moisture, an insulation layer, and an outer wind and waterproof layer
Hat and/or hood
Gloves to not only protect from cold, but to protect from cold machinery
2. Company Vehicles: Another major concern for employers is employees who drive company vehicles. Here are some things to consider:
Distracted Driving: All employees should go through Distracted Driving safety training and be compliant with your Distracted Driving or Cell Phone Use Policy (visit our Distracted Driving Resource Page for more info).
Vehicle Safety: You should have your company vehicles inspected by a mechanic prior to the winter season. Plus, all vehicles should be equipped with emergency items such as: snow/ice scraper, blanket, first aid kit, and flashlight.
Defensive Driving: To protect your company against liability, any employee who drives a company vehicle should be trained in safe and defensive driving techniques. They should also know the procedures to follow in the case of an accident.
3. Communication is Key: Depending on the type of work and weather conditions, your employees may or may not be expected to show up for work. It is important to have a known policy in place that outlines your expectations as an employer. Be sure to include safety measures, attendance and pay-related policies.
You should make plans for communicating your policy to your employees, including a backup plan if they cannot be reached by phone. If you know that inclement weather is coming you will want to remind your employees in advance of your policies and procedures.
If you, as an employer, take a proactive approach to your responsibilities to winter weather you can minimize the impact on your business and your employees.
At Botson Insurance Group, our business and commercial clients benefit from FREE safety tools and training, distracted driving training, editable workplace policies, and risk management advice that helps them become safer and more profitable. Feel free to contact us for more information and additional resources.