Whether we like it or not, for most of the United States, winter is preparing to set in. And while cooler temperatures and snowy days can make for a good postcard, they don't necessarily make for high productivity and good working conditions. As we gear up for a few months of Mother Nature's finest, here are a few things to keep in mind this winter season.
Slips and falls: For many years, the top violation on OSHA's annual most cited list has been fall protection. While keeping people on their feet and upright is a good goal for any time of the year, it becomes especially important during the winter months, when icy sidewalks and wet indoor floors present additional risks. Stock up on de-icers early and make sure personnel are properly trained to use them. Evaluate your matting systems and make sure they're in good condition to minimize the snow, ice and water tracked onto your floors, and devote extra labor to keeping the floors dry in this risky season.
Safe supplies: There's another factor to consider while you're making sure the sidewalks and floors are clean and safe: the chemicals in the products you select. Educate yourself and your maintenance staff on the de-icers, disinfectants and other cleaning supplies that are in heavy use during the winter months so they can be used safely and responsibly. If your office, like many, will be sealed up tight with the heat running all winter long, pay special attention to which supplies might impact indoor air quality and consider alternatives.
Commuting in inclement weather: Have procedures and communication plans in place for when road conditions are hazardous. Does everyone in your building know the policy for staying home in inclement weather? What's your telecommuting policy? How (and when) do the company's employees find out whether the office is closed during inclement weather? These are all important questions to consider and address for the safety of your employees and the productivity of your business.
Stopping the spread of germs: Finally, the winter months bring more than just cold weather and precipitation. Flu season, which can start as early as October and linger as late as May, tends to peak between December and February, and while it would be great if people stayed out of the office when sick, nearly 80% still show up when under the weather. So what can you do to protect yourself and others in your office? Stock up on antibacterial soap, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer and be sure to make them available to everyone, and encourage hand and office space hygiene through signage. And lead by example—if you're sick, stay home!