'Tis the Season for Winter Safety — Just Don't fa-la-la-la-fall!

It's that most wonderful time of year again, with temperatures dropping, holiday lights going up and colleagues' OOO messages rebounding back to your inbox. And while the winter holidays are a time to deck the halls, companies also need to be mindful of the seasonal risks that come along with cold weather. In fact, workplace safety is more important than ever today, with recently enacted requirements from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration significantly upping the cost of non-compliance. Read on to learn how your company can prepare — plus, simple tips to help take the bite out of seasonal hazards this winter.

The High Cost of Unsafe Working Conditions
Workplace safety is a year-round priority for best-in-class companies today. And that starts by aligning with new OSHA standards — because, as of Jan. 1, 2019, the cost of non-compliance is going up. Starting in the new year, violations classified as "serious" as well as "other than serious" will both result in fines of nearly $13,000, while "willful" and "repeat" offenses will warrant fines of close to $130,000.

Along with higher penalties for infractions, there are also new, more stringent reporting requirements you should be aware of. Most notably, all companies with 250 or more employees — as well as companies with 20 to 249 employees in industries that have, historically, had higher rates of occupational injuries and illnesses — are now required by OSHA to track and report on workplace safety with OSHA Form 300A.

But the good news is that, by implementing safety best practices and ensuring that they're adhered to year-round, companies can avoid hefty fines while also cutting down on turnover and increasing overall operational productivity. Ready to get started? Here are a few areas to focus on this winter.

Deck the Halls — But Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls
Winter snow and ice can create serious safety hazards — and unless you take precautions, your work site might soon start to resemble the set of Home Alone. To protect your employees from slips, trips, and falls, make sure that everyone on your work site operates with the following four guidelines in mind:

  • Keep walkways, stairways and other heavily trafficked work areas clear of obstacles, and take action to address potential hazards such as water on floors or snow on sidewalks as soon as you see them.
  • Always look where you're going and have your hands ready to steady yourself in the event that you slip or lose your footing.
  • Avoid carrying heavy loads that could compromise your balance.
  • Mark hazardous areas with signs, cones, barricades, or floor stands to warn passers-by.

Promote Safe Driving
Employees who must drive as part of their on-the-job responsibilities are at increased risk for serious injuries during winter due to icy roadways and decreased visibility. To help keep employees safe, you should take the following steps.

  • Provide employees with safe-driver training.
  • Create a mandatory hands-free and seat belt use policy.
  • Sign formal contracts with all employees who drive for work purposes — that way, you can ensure that employees are aware of and understand your company's traffic safety policies and other expectations.
  • Review and consider how telematics could be an option in your fleet and driver safety program.

Take the Chill out of Winter
Hypothermia and frostbite are medical conditions resulting from exposure to the cold. These conditions can cause serious harm — up to and including death! (For a more detailed overview of symptoms and treatment for hypothermia and frostbite, click here.) So if you suspect one of your workers is at risk for, or suffering from, either condition, you should seek help from a medical professional — immediately. And while you wait for help to arrive, take the following steps:

  • Elevate the affected body parts in order to reduce swelling.
  • Move your co-worker to a warm area to prevent further heat loss.
  • Remove all wet clothing and apply a dry, sterile bandage to the affected areas. You can also place cotton between any affected fingers or toes.

Additionally, an effective job hazard analysis can help define job tasks that require additional protection from the cold.

Nothin' Better than an Ugly, Fitted Holiday Sweater
As it gets colder, workers will need to pile on clothing to keep warm. However, this can create risks, too, as loose clothing is liable to get caught in machinery and can limit visibility. And that, in turn, can potentially cause serious injuries. So employees who operate heavy machinery must be extra cautious — they'll need to dress appropriately to stay warm, without increasing their risk of on-the-job injuries.

When safety standards aren't met, companies face any number of risks, including lower productivity, higher turnover, and increased on-boarding costs, not to mention expensive fines. So keep these safety tips in mind this winter, and your employees will be safe and sound in 2019 — and beyond.

Corey Berghoefer, Senior Vice President of Risk Management & Insurance, Randstad US, is a risk management expert with more than a decade's worth of experience in safety and risk management, underwriting and loss control, claims management, and risk financing, accounting, and insurance. As Senior Vice President of Risk Management & Insurance at Randstad, the largest staffing firm in the world and third largest in the United States, Corey manages a department of 47 risk professionals with the goal of implementing proven risk management strategies into Randstad's overall business platform. Under his direction, Randstad has become acclaimed for its enterprise-wide risk management strategies, workers' compensation practices, and comprehensive focus on talent safety. He holds a BA from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA from the University of Georgia.

Posted on Nov 27, 2018

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