The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reports that 70 percent of cold weather accidents are vehicular. Each year, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement, and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA). The FHA further reports that nearly 900 people are killed and nearly 76,000 people are injured in vehicle crashes during snowfall or sleet. As these figures indicate, it is imperative to take proactive steps to guarantee your employees’ safety during winter weather driving. Try these tips to stay ahead of any storm.
Scope Out The Storm
As an employer, one of the first things you should do to help keep your employees safe is remain aware of weather conditions and forecasts throughout the winter. Winter weather changes quickly, so it may be worthwhile to sign up for alerts from NOAA/National Weather Service. If storms, snow or ice make winter driving conditions dangerous, it may be best to give your employees the option of taking the day off from work or working from home. Where conditions are particularly hazardous, it may even be best to specifically direct your workers not to attempt to drive. Be sure to maintain employee emergency contact information for this purpose. Where a storm is scheduled to occur later in the day, the best tip may be to tell employees to leave work early or, when necessary, to stay longer at the office for safety’s sake.
Prep Before The Mess
Plan your responses to winter weather in advance so you are not caught off guard. Prepare a list of alternate driving routes to your work facilities to be used in the event that main or more direct roads are closed or unsafe due to winter weather. Where possible, develop a plan for operating your business remotely so that employees are able to work from home effectively. That way, you can maximize efficiency while minimizing risk.
Know Where Snow Will Go
Take measures to minimize winter weather driving risks in the area around your work facilities. Form a snow removal plan for your grounds and nearby access roads. Be willing to hire a private snow removal company for larger jobs. Lay down rock salt to combat ice. Do not neglect to determine in advance where to pile the snow safely.
Communicate with your employees about the best ways to drive safely in winter weather. Advise them to plan their route, allow plenty of time, and keep others informed of their route and expected arrival time. Winter drivers should also be sure to maintain their cars by checking the battery and tire tread, keeping windows clear, putting no-freeze fluid in the washer reservoir, and checking antifreeze. It is also useful to keep winter weather preparedness supplies in the car, including items like shovels, snow brushes, ice scrapers, safety flashlights, jumper cables, blankets, water, warning devices such as flares, and abrasive material like sand or industrial floor mats that can help drivers pull out if they become stuck in the snow. If stopped or stalled, winter drivers should stay with the car, refrain from over-exertion, use traffic control equipment, like bright markers to place on the car, and shine the dome lights to increase their visibility. Of course, drivers should keep their cell phones with them and be prepared to call for help as soon as it is necessary.
Try a Test Run
Advise your employees to practice winter weather driving safety before a big storm hits. For instance, during daylight, they can rehearse maneuvers slowly on ice or snow in empty lots. Employees should practice such tricky maneuvers as steering into skids. They should be aware that stopping distances are longer on ice and water-covered ice. Your crew should also be mindful of proper braking technique: stomping for antilock brakes, pumping for non-antilock brakes.
It may be worthwhile to have a winter weather training session to practice your contingency plan and to share these driving safety tips with your employees. A small effort can save lives.