Coughs and sniffles. Chill breezes and frost-covered lawns. Jack-o’-lanterns and costumed children. Yes, all the signs are here: winter (2022) is coming. As we head into the cold and flu season it’s time for some annual reminders on what we can do to prepare for safe operations throughout.
Colder weather presents several hazards including slippery roads/surfaces, strong winds, and cold temperatures. It is the responsibility of employers to take measures to prevent illnesses, injuries, or fatalities, by controlling hazards in workplaces impacted by the weather.
OSHA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have, together, produced a public education effort aimed at improving the way people prepare for and respond to severe weather. This campaign is based on the tenets of Plan, Equip, and Train. The effort is designed to help businesses and their workers prepare for winter weather, and to provide information about hazards that workers may face during and after winter storms.
Outdoor work requires proper preparation, especially in severe winter weather conditions. Employers are responsible for providing workers with a workplace free from recognized hazards, including winter weather-related hazards, which can potentially cause death or serious physical harm. Good winter planning considers the ways that employees should be equipped and trained to prepare them for winter.
It is essential that employees are properly equipped to work in winter weather. For instance, operating procedures can be tailored to include clauses for winter weather to prevent system freezing. Systems can be designed with heaters and heat tracing. Employees can be provided with cold weather-rated PPE. These are just a few examples of the many ways to equip the workforce for safe and reliable winter operations.
Training on winter safety topics provides employees with the knowledge needed to safely perform their duties during these months. Properly trained employees will be alerted to the dangers that arise when cold weather is present. It is essential that they understand what cold stress is and can recognize its symptoms.
As the snow begins to swirl in, it brings flu season with it. Part of safely preparing for winter safety is to receive the annual flu vaccine. Influenza (flu) vaccines (often called “flu shots”) are vaccines that protect against the four influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Most flu vaccines are “flu shots” given with a needle, usually in the arm, but there also is a nasal spray flu vaccine. The CDC provides a wealth of information regarding the availability, types, and efficacy of annual flu shots.
Flu shots are widely available and are typically offered at low or no cost. A simple Google search will yield results for national pharmacy chains (CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, etc.) that serve most localities. Local grocers and health care providers are also resources for obtaining a flu shot.