Along with holiday cheer, the winter season brings low temperatures and snowy weather. As fall draws to a close, it’s time to “winterize” your workplace. Follow these 10 tips to prep your business throughout the long, cold months ahead.
1. Don’t let your facilities get too cold. You should maintain a minimum temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit on the premises to ensure future safety. It’s important to prevent facilities from becoming too cold, even during periods when no one is present, such as nights or holiday breaks. Low temperatures can lead to frozen and burst pipes, a messy and expensive problem to fix.
2. Have a snow removal plan. Form a plan and make arrangements in advance for snow removal to clear the area around your facilities and nearby access roads. An important safety step you shouldn’t neglect is to determine where to pile the snow after shoveling so that it will be securely out of the way. Whether you hire professional removers or clear the powder yourself, you should keep a supply of essential snow-removal gear, such as shovels and rock salt, stowed on the premises. As it is likely that some snow will get tracked indoors, consider lining your floors with safety matting to prevent slips.
3. Maintain a list of professionals who can solve winter safety problems. Maintain names and contact information for reliable people you can call upon to help solve typical workplace safety problems that arise with the cold weather. The list should include a good plumber, contractor and snow remover. You should also compile a list of numbers for regular emergency services, such as EMTs, whom you may call upon to deal with injuries that might result from winter weather, such as slips on ice.
4. Have a back-up resource for your systems. It’s difficult to run a business when your system is down. In case of power failure, you should have a back-up computer or server that can run on temporary battery power. Also, figure out a plan for getting your systems running again in the event they go down. For instance, find out how long it will likely take to get them back up. Additional back-up resources, such as a powerful Pelican flashlight, are also essential.
5. Take the weather into account. Pay daily attention to weather reports, and remain aware of the dangers posed by inclement winter elements. Take storms, snow and ice into account when deciding whether to require your employees to come into work. You should be sure that your crew members have a safe way of traveling to the workplace and are not putting themselves at undue risk or going against safety recommendations in trying to get there. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reports that 70 percent of cold weather accidents are vehicular, so be mindful of road conditions. Even though you may have completed the proper prep work to safeguard against inclement weather, workers’ commutes may still be filled with danger.
6. Keep a well-stocked emergency preparedness kit. As a general precaution, all work facilities should have an emergency preparedness kit on the premises, fully stocked, year round. That rule is particularly important during the winter, when high snow build-up and icy roads mean employees could be trapped at the workplace with no means of getting home safely. Stormy winter weather can also cause blackouts at work. To prepare for these eventualities, the emergency prep kit should have a battery-operated radio, flashlights, batteries and enough nonperishable food and water to last a few days. Have a first aid kit always on hand, as winter can make conditions slicker and lead to falls.
7. Maintain employee emergency contact info. Keep a list of emergency contact information for all employees, including phone numbers for cellular and home phones, email addresses and family emergency contacts. In the event of bad winter weather, you will want to be able to reach your employees to tell them to stay home, inform them of alternate routes, and to make sure they are safe.
8. Make your windows and doors weather-tight. There’s nothing worse than cold drafts and wet weather coming through windows and doors in the dead of winter. Check your workplace’s older windows in particular to see if they are likely to leak cold air. One quick solution is to cover your windows with bubble wrap!
9. Develop a contingency plan for weather-related cancellations and delays. Even in the event of problematic weather, it’s important for your business that you try to get your employees into work, if it’s safely possible. Rather than surrendering to storms, prep with a list of alternate routes to your workplace. If possible, it is also useful to have a plan for operating your business remotely. In facilities where a lot of work is done on the computer, employees may be able to complete assignments from home, thereby ensuring their safety.
10. Test your emergency plans and resources. You don’t want to wait until an actual emergency occurs to see if your well-laid plans will actually work. The best way to see whether you’re truly well prepared is to put your winter-weather emergency plans and resources through a trial run. During a cold-weather “drill,” you may realize some important safety factors you may have overlooked.