A cold front has been hovering over North Carolina in recent days, causing plummeting temperatures, accumulation of ice and snow and major headaches for companies trying to ensure their workers are safe on the job.
Our North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers know that most workers don’t get “snow days” the way we used to as kids, so the importance of ensuring your workplace is safe in the midst of these snowstorms can’t be overstated.
This is especially true in North Carolina because unlike many of our Northern neighbors, snow and ice aren’t every day occurrences here, so many employers aren’t as prepared for it as those who expect to deal with it on a regular basis each year.
According to the National Weather Service, approximately 7 out of 10 injuries that happen during winter storms happen on the roadways. Many of us, even if we don’t drive full-time for a living, do occasionally have to head out of the office as part of our job. Keeping your vehicle road-worthy and remaining alert, free of distractions and traveling at an appropriate speed can significantly cut down the risk.
In addition to on-the-job motor vehicle accidents, U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Association reports there are numerous other ways that workers are injured during winter storms. Those include:
- Carbon monoxide poisoning;
- Slips and falls on icy or slick walkways;
- Roof collapse under the weight of snow;
- Being struck by falling objects such as utility poles, tree limbs and icicles;
- Hypothermia and/or frostbite attributed to exposure to freezing weather;
- Falls from heights;
- Electrocution as a result of coming in contact with downed power lines or objects that are connected to power lines;
- Burns from fires resulting from either equipment failure or energized line contact;
- Back injuries or heart attacks prompted by the physical stress of snow removal;
- Exhaustion from having to work longer shifts to make up for those who were either sick, unable to make it in or simply from the storm prompting a larger work load.
It’s up to each employer to carefully assess what precautions should be taken in the workplace to protect workers in the midst of a winter storm.
Employees too can be proactive in this. Keep the following in mind:
- Wear proper footwear with decent rubber grip or treads that can help you avoid slipping on ice or snow;
- Slow your pace while walking and take shorter steps;
- Watch out for cars or vehicles that may have lost traction and may be sliding toward you;
- Wear bright, reflective colors and appropriately warm clothing;
- Recognize potential workplace hazards that could lead to cold-induced injuries or illness;
- Avoid exhaustion by taking a break when needed;
- When out in potentially treacherous conditions, work in pairs;
- Stay far away from damaged or downed power lines;
- Electrical workers should be wearing the proper safety equipment;
- Outdoor workers use equipment that is designed to be used outdoors and in wet conditions;
- Keep your vehicle in good working order – check your brakes, cooling system, engine, tires, exhaust oil and visibility systems.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Snow hitting Charlotte and surrounding areas, Feb. 16, 2013, By Andrew Armstrong, WBTV, Ch el 3
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