How To Survive the Winter Storm

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Winter is a wonderful time of year. The season brings many good memories - spending time with our families, the holidays, the New Year, snow, and the warmth from a fireplace. But, there is also a dark side to Jack Frost – ice, sleet, strong winds, power loss, and car accidents. However, there are a number of things we can do to keep ourselves safe and injury-free. 

 Before the Storm

According to the National Weather Service, about 70% of injuries during winter storms result from vehicle accidents, and about 25% of injuries result from being caught in a storm. What do you do if you lose heat, or your pipes freeze, or you lose access to your facility? What do you do if there's a communication breakdown? As an employer, there are steps you can take throughout the year in order to be prepared when (and before) the storm hits.

  • Review your insurance coverage. Sit down with your business insurance agent to be clear about what is actually covered in your policy. You can't buy the specific types of coverage you need the day after you get hit by a snowstorm or your roof collapses.
  • Establish and communicate an inclement weather attendance policy. The last thing you want to do is put your staff in harm's way. This needs to be communicated ahead of time so employees know what to expect when work is delayed or called off.
  • Make a Phone Tree. And not the kind from the PTA. You should have multiple ways of getting in touch with your staff. Start simple and make a list of every employee's home and cell numbers, and e-mail addresses. Make sure everyone has a copy and knows what their responsibilities are.
  • Establish remote access to your website to update visitors about the organization's status. Most people wouldn't know how to access their website to alert customers about their operating status. Designate an employee who has access to the site to make bad weather announcements on it.

Zero Hour

Here we go – the storm started. Here are a few things to keep in mind while sheltering from a storm:

  • Stay informed on the storm's status, and activate your crisis-communication plan
  • Ensure your employees' and customers' safety and well-being. Decide whether to activate your emergency evacuation or shelter-in-place plan
  • Stay indoors as much as possible

It's a good idea to be prepared to be self-sufficient for 72 hours. If your plan is to wait for rescue services (or even just the snow plow) to come by, you're going to be cold and hungry.

After the Storm

You've survived the storm – now what?

Snow and ice bring an increased risk of injury caused by slips and falls due to slippery sidewalks, parking lots and work areas. Generally, injuries suffered traveling to and from the workplace are not deemed to have occurred in the course of employment, but if your employee falls and is injured in your parking lot, it's likely the individual will be eligible for worker's compensation benefits – regardless of who is responsible for snow removal.

The following tips will help you and your employees avoid slips and falls this winter:

  • Consider illuminating walking paths
  • Remember to adequately salt walkways
  • Mop all entrances and exits regularly
  • Avoid wearing high heels outside. Flat shoes with slip-resistant soles or boots are best
  • When walking across ice or snow, take short, flat steps
  • Walk; don't run. Slowing down will decrease the chances of a slip and fall
  • When entering a building, clean your footwear thoroughly on the floor mats or carpet
  • Use walkways that have been salted or shoveled

Even though we all want to stay home (underneath a big blanket – or two) when bad winter weather happens, unfortunately, sometimes, "the show must go on!" Thankfully, there are plenty of precautions we can take to ensure a safe and emergency room-free season.

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Guest November 19 2017
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