Last year alone, there were 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries reported across all industries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics. As winter approaches, manufacturing companies must take proactive steps to prevent workplace injuries commonly associated with worsening weather conditions like extreme snowfall, ice and sleet.
Here are some of the most common workplace injuries and illnesses that occur during the winter months.
- Slips, trips and falls. Rain, snow and ice commonly cause falls, so it’s important to keep walkways, entrance ways and stairways clear of these hazards.
- Driving and motor vehicle collisions. Employees who drive for business purposes can be seriously injured or killed in auto accidents caused by icy roadways and decreased visibility.
- Hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia and frostbite result from extreme-cold exposure, and both can have long-lasting effects.
On the path to a company’s safety maturity, improvements are most effective when driven by the organization’s leadership to enable a safe workplace for employees by encouraging open communication and ensuring job tasks are specific to the workforce capabilities. Following are three ways to empower your employees and create a safer workplace this winter.
1. Position New Hires for First-Day Success
Think back to your first day on the job. It can be an exciting yet nerve-wracking time, and employees who don’t know how to do something may be inclined to nod their heads anyway, assuming they’ll figure out the rest later. But unfamiliarity with operations, combined with a desire to please, can quickly result in employees getting in over their heads.
When new hires come on board, be sure to emphasize the importance of taking precautions, following safety protocols and using common sense while getting acclimated. Encourage them to question everything right from the beginning.
2. Encourage Staff to Speak Up
Provide an environment built on empowerment and education. That way, employees won’t feel nervous sharing safety concerns with management.
Communicate to your team the importance of staying alert and watching out for one another when working outdoors. You should also emphasize that no retaliatory actions will be taken against employees for speaking up, according to their rights under OSHA law.
Safety needs to come first, no matter what.
3. Stick to Specialties, Even when Short-Staffed
Between aggressive production schedules and absences due to illness or vacation, which are common during the winter months, your operation may be overworked and short-handed at times. Make sure you have a clear understanding of all your employees’ areas of expertise and develop a contingency plan ahead of time to account for unplanned absences in key areas.
As we enter the harsh winter months, keep in mind a successful operation is only possible when workplace safety is embedded in your business strategy. Prepare a monthly safety meeting and address safety weaknesses that your staff can aim to improve. Don’t wait until a catastrophic injury occurs to get serious about safety.
Keep these guidelines in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to a safer and more productive workplace this winter season and every season thereafter.
Corey Berghoefer is senior vice president of risk management & insurance with Randstad US (www.randstadusa.com), one of the largest staffing firms in the world.