Keep Workers Safe in Winter Weather

January 15, 2007

A number of hazards exist year-round, but winter brings a higher risk of weather-related emergencies, including winter ice storms, power outages, and a higher likelihood of lowland floods. Employers that plan ahead to keep workers safe in an emergency are better equipped to survive a natural disaster and continue operations.

OSHA requires employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. Those requirements include having emergency plans in place to address fires, disasters, and weather emergencies that could occur during work.

Emergency planning won’t prevent winter weather emergencies, but it can protect lives, equipment, and property over the long term; therefore, winter weather emergencies should be included in your site’s emergency action plan.

Follow these tips to make sure your employees stay safe during emergencies, including workplace incidents and winter weather events:

  • Communicate before, during, and after an emergency. Include emergency preparedness information in newsletters, bulletin boards, all-staff e-mails, and other internal communication tools.
  • Consider setting up a telephone-calling tree, a weather emergency page on your company website, an alert message sent to home e-mail accounts, or an answer-only voice-mail recording to provide information to employees in the event of an emergency.
  • Provide workers with wallet cards detailing instructions, including phone numbers and websites, for obtaining company information during an emergency. Information about closures and delays can protect workers from being exposed to unnecessary traffic hazards.
  • Establish a process for safely evacuating your facility, if appropriate, and coordinate a safe area where workers can be accounted for.
  • Clear parking lots and walkways of snow and ice. Make sure heavy snow accumulations are removed from roofs so they do not impact the structural safety of the building.
  • Identify coworkers in your organization with special needs. Train people willing to help workers with special needs get to safety and be sure they are physically suited to their responsibility. This is particularly important if a worker needs to be lifted or carried.
  • Develop a plan to alert people who cannot hear an alarm or instructions during an emergency.
  • Closely tie a business continuity plan to your emergency plan. The business continuity plan should address how your business can remain functioning.
  • Define incident-management procedures and individual responsibilities in advance. Make sure those involved know what they are supposed to do, and train others who can serve as a backup.
  • Review your emergency plans annually. When you hire new employees or when there are changes in how your company functions, update your plan and inform your people.

 The guide introduces employers to incident-management systems for the workplace and explains factors to consider when planning for an emergency. The guide also addresses how to plan for emergencies such as threats of violence.

OSHA Program Focuses on Spray-On Bedliner Industry


OSHA announced the start of a local emphasis program in western Missouri aimed at reducing workplace health hazards inherent in the spray-on bedliner industry.

Spray-on bedliners are designed to provide a layer of protection inside a pick-up truck's bed to prevent rust and corrosion and lessen wear and tear. Health hazards in spray-on bedliner applications typically include exposure to various solvents and a group of contaminants known as isocyanates that can cause severe respiratory disease. OSHA’s goal is to reduce employee exposures to these hazards through education, increased awareness, training, and outreach opportunities.

Under the local emphasis program, OSHA will randomly select shops for inspection in the spray-on bedliner industry within the jurisdiction of OSHA’s area office in Kansas City, Mo., which includes the western half of the state. Partial health inspections will be conducted with a focus on spray-on bedliner related hazards.

You can request information on the program by contacting the OSHA area office in Kansas City at 816-483-9531 or toll-free at 1-800-892-2674.

OSHA Cites Federal Constructors Corp. for Lack of Fall Protection at Hotel Worksite

OSHA has issued a citation against Federal Constructors Corp. of Boise, Idaho, for alleged safety violations found during inspections at the company's Country Inn and Suites Hotel construction site in Meridian, Idaho. The citation carries a proposed penalty of $35,000.

The inspection was initiated as a follow-up after an OSHA safety inspector observed employees walking and working on top plates and unguarded edges, exposing them to fall hazards.

The willful citation addresses the employer’s failure to provide and enforce fall protection for employees despite knowing the applicable OSHA standard. Willful violations are those committed with an intentional disregard of, or plain indifference to, the requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act and regulations.


New OSHA Alliance Aims to Enhance Safety for Mass. Heavy Equipment Operators


OSHA has launched a new alliance with the Massachusetts Division of Occupational Safety (MA-DOS) and Local 98 of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). The effort is aimed at improving job safety for heavy equipment operators and other workers in central and western Massachusetts.

The alliance seeks to prevent Local 98 members’ exposure to construction-related hazards, particularly falls, electrical hazards, and injuries caused when employees are struck by or caught in between objects on job sites. The two government agencies and the union will develop and deliver safety and health courses and will develop workplace safety and health curricula.

"Construction is, by its very nature, highly hazardous work," said Mary Hoye, OSHA's area director for central and western Massachusetts. "This alliance will equip Local 98's members with the knowledge and skills to identify, prevent, and better protect themselves against the most common construction hazards."

Under the alliance, OSHA, MA-DOS, and Local 98 will share information about best practices. They will promote and encourage IUOE members and worksites to build relationships with OSHA, participate in OSHA's cooperative programs, and work together on specific issues and projects developed through the alliance. They also plan to disseminate and publicize information about recognizing and preventing workplace hazards.

The IUOE represents operating engineers who work as heavy equipment operators, mechanics, and surveyors in the construction industry. The alliance was signed Dec. 19, 2006.

For information about this and other OSHA alliances and partnerships in Massachusetts, call OSHA's regional office in Boston at (617) 565-3070, or its area offices in Springfield at (413) 785-0123, Braintree at (617) 565-6924 and Methuen at (617) 565-8110.

Over-Inflating Tires Leads to Fatality and OSHA Penalty

OSHA has cited T.O. Haas LLC, of Imperial, Neb., for seven alleged serious, willful, repeat, and other-than-serious safety violations. OSHA proposed a $132,500 penalty against the company, following its investigation of a July 15, 2006 fatal accident.

T.O. Haas LLC is a wholesale and retail tire service company with 26 locations and 210 employees throughout Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas. The Imperial location primarily provides tire sales and service to private, commercial, and agricultural customers.

"An investigation was conducted after an employee suffered fatal injuries after being struck in the head while inflating a tire," said Charles E. Adkins, CIH, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City. "This tragic accident could have been prevented if OSHA regulations and equipment manufacturer's instructions had been followed."

The serious citation addressed the employer's allowing employees to inflate tires above the maximum pressure recommended by the manufacturer to "seat" the tire bead firmly against the rim flange. Two willful citations were issued for failure to remove from service any restraining device or barrier exhibiting damage that would decrease its effectiveness and failure to ensure all inflation operations are done inside a tire restraining device or barrier.

The three repeat citations addressed failure to ensure that each employee demonstrated and maintained the ability to service rim wheels safely, failure to adequately guard the pulley on the air compressor, and failure to adequately guard the belt on an air compressor in the facility.

An other-than-serious citation was issued for the employer's failure to make an oral report of the fatality to OSHA within eight hours of the event.

Broadening the Reach for Best Practices of Handling Antineoplastic Drugs


 This is the most recent information available on promoting the safe handling of antineoplastic drugs for the more than 5.5 million healthcare workers potentially exposed.

Recent studies have shown that workers continue to be exposed despite improvements in safety policies and procedures since the 1980s. 

2007 Safety-on-the-Job Kids’ Poster Contest


The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is sponsoring the fifth annual Safety-on-the-Job Kids’ Poster Contest for children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews of society members as part of the North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week tribute to the importance of occupational safety, health, and the environment. NAOSH Week will be Sunday, May 6 to Saturday, May 12, 2007. The poster contest competition kicked off Sept. 19, 2006, and will end Feb. 14, 2007. All entries must be postmarked by Feb. 14, 2007.

The contest will be segmented into five age-groups with the winning poster from each category to be featured on the NAOSH Week 2007 poster. The posters entered will be displayed in Washington, D.C., during NAOSH Week at the U.S. Department of Labor. The Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA along with the ASSE President and a representative from the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering (CSSE) will introduce the poster contest winners at the national NAOSH kick-off in Washington, D.C.

The posters also will be displayed at ASSE's annual Professional Development Conference & Exposition to be held in Orlando in June. An independent panel of judges will select the five winning entries that best illustrate the Safety-on-the-Job theme. Prizes will be awarded to all entrants and each age-group winner will receive a $1,000 savings bond.

 Before the children begin drawing, talk to them about workplace safety and provide examples of what risks occupational safety, health, and environmental professionals address every day on the job, and if possible, provide them with examples of workplace situations. Have fun!

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