Toolbox Topic: Winter Weather Safety
Winter weather can be unpredictable. In this episode, we will talk about the dangers and some precautions you can take to stay safe.
Winter Weather Definitions
A winter weather event is a weather phenomenon (such as snow, sleet, ice, or wind chill) that impacts public safety, transportation, and/or commerce. It typically occurs during the winter season between October 15th and April 15th.
History of Winter Weather Storms
White Hurrican 1913
In November 1913, a massive winter storm called the “White Hurricane” smashed into the Great Lakes. This violent storm system was hurricane force winds mixed with a blizzard. The storm caused 250 deaths and at least a dozen shipwrecks. Considering the number of ships lost, it still holds the record for the worst inland maritime disaster in American history.
Greate Appalachian Storm of 1950
On Thanksgiving weekend, 1950, a massive winter storm struck the eastern United States. Known as the Great Appalachian Storm of 1950, it was one of the most damaging and widespread wind events ever recorded over the Northeastern United States. Almost 60 inches of snow would cover the central Appalachians.
The Blizzard of ’78
On January 25, 1978, the Hoosier state (Indiana) was shut down by the Blizzard of ’78. It was the worst snowstorm on record. That Blizzard would set two records both in Indianapolis, including the most snowfall in a single month, which measured 30.6 inches, and the most accumulation on the ground, which measured 20 inches!
The Blizzard of 1996
The Blizzard of 1996 formed in the Gulf of Mexico on January 06. It would reach the coast of GA, NC, and Southern New England by the 8th. The heavy snowfall was significant and record-breaking. The East Coast would receive up to four feet of snow in some areas. Philadelphia got 30.7 inches of snow which is still the record today. The Blizzard of 1996 would kill 154 people. By some estimates, the storm did $3 billion in damage.
The Blizzard of 2005
The Blizzard of 05 would result in 40 inches of snow covering the Northeast United States. Hurricane-force winds and intense snowfall set the stage for large snowdrifts and white-out conditions.
The Snowmageddon of 2010!
Last but not least, some of you may remember the Snowmageddon of 2010! This storm was actually two blizzards in one that hit the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions, one right after the other. This storm caused flooding and landslides in Mexico, thunderstorms and heavy rain across the South, and heavy snowfall to the southern Appalachians and parts of the Mid-Atlantic. From Virginia to New York, somewhere between 25 and 30 inches of snow would cover the region. Reportedly 41 people died between Mexico and the U.S.
Winter Weather Safety Statistics
In 2017 there were 20,460 ice, sleet, and snow-related injuries. Fourteen percent of these (2,890 cases) occurred in the state of New York. The incidence rate for New York was 4.0 cases per 10,000 full-time workers. The incidence rate for Alaska was 12.0 cases per 10,000 full-time workers.
Winter Weather Safety Tips
Safety Tip #1 Situational Awareness
Always be aware of the environment you are in and take precautions. In case a severe weather event is predicted in your area, pay attention to news updates. If working outside or traveling during a storm, make sure you don’t put yourself in a situation you can’t get out of. When traveling or working in a remote area, take extra precautions, as snow and ice can accumulate quickly. A snowfall of only 2-3 inches could mean roads are no longer drivable.
70 % of deaths during snow or ice storms occur in vehicles. Even with cell service, roads may become undrivable as the weather worsens, and it may be impossible for help to get to you. Every company vehicle should have an emergency kit with blankets, matches, a shovel, sandbags, a flashlight, and non-perishable food items.
Safety Tip#2: Slips, Trips, and Falls
Ice, sleet, snow, and other environmental factors can lead to slips, trips, and falls! These types of injuries are the second most common injuries in the workplace. Use extra caution when walking on these surfaces and take smaller steps. Salt walkways and put out caution signs. Make sure work boots are in good condition and have good tread. Use stops work authority when walking surfaces appear to be unsafe. In other words, if conditions are dangerous, stop and report the situation to your supervisor immediately.
Safety Tip #3 Dress Appropriately
Layering clothing will keep you warmer than a single layer. It also allows for adding layers if you get stuck outside and the weather drops. Excessive perspiration can lead to hypothermia. Remove layers as needed to prevent overheating. Wear a hat, as half of your body heat can escape through the top of your head. Use earmuffs or a hat that covers your ears. Lastly, ensure your clothing, such as scarves, drawstrings, or long sleeves, doesn’t create any new hazards such as entanglement with machinery.
Safety Tip #4: Know the Signs
Know the signs and dangers of frostbite and hypothermia: hypothermia is a potentially fatal condition caused by loss of body temperature.
• Symptoms include lightheadedness, confusion, fatigue, nausea, and profuse sweating.
• Skin can start freezing at 28 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Deep frostbite can cause blood clots and gangrene.
Without medical treatment, you could lose consciousness and die.
Safety Tip #5: Driving in Winter Weather
Pay attention to weather reports for snow or icy conditions. Plan your travel around these conditions if possible. Suspend operations during severe weather; this will eliminate the risk of being in an accident. If caught out in snowy or icy conditions, drive defensively. Maintain extra space between you and other vehicles. If you need to brake or turn to avoid an accident, this will reduce the likelihood of sliding into another car. Drive slowly! Driving at a slower speed gives you more time to react, reducing the possibility of losing control of your vehicle.