CNA logoWith temperatures falling, now is the time to ensure that sound winter safety procedures are in place. Cold-weather workplace hazards include vehicular accidents, slips and falls, and exposure to the elements. By reviewing the following winter safety measures with both employees and clients, home care providers can help reduce injuries, staff downtime and potential loss.

Slips and Falls
Dress appropriately. Explain to staff that rubber or neoprene soles provide more traction than leather or plastic, and that smooth-soled “comfort” shoes should be avoided in snowy or icy conditions. In areas of extreme weather, consider providing employees with cleats or other traction devices for shoes that make walking on slippery surfaces safer and easier. In addition, inform staff that “bundling up” properly reduces the risk of frostbite and also minimizes the tendency to either hurry or tense the muscles, both of which can lead to a stumble.

Determine routes in advance. Instruct caregivers to always use the safest route when approaching clients’ homes. Explain that by planning carefully, avoiding shortcuts, and staying on cleared and level paths, they can significantly reduce the danger of slips and falls.

Focus and slow down. Remind staff members to be aware of possible slippery patches and deep snow, and to walk around rather than through hazardous areas. When the ground is snowy or icy, encourage them to factor extra time into travel plans, take smaller steps, and avoid carrying heavy or bulky packages, which can impair their balance and block their view.

Recognize high-risk situations. Emphasize the need to exercise caution when climbing outdoor steps and maneuvering into and out of cars or vans. Also, explain that non-reflective “black ice” can present a serious danger, especially after dark.

Wipe shoes or boots upon entry. Wet shoes cause many slips and falls. Minimize the risk by requesting that staff and clients use floor mats and/or scrapers whenever they enter from outside.

Driving Hazards
Preventive maintenance. Instruct staff members to check their car’s brakes, windshield wipers, sprayers, defrosters and other safety features before winter weather hits. In addition, request that they perform ongoing routine maintenance to ensure that their vehicle remains in good operating condition.

Visibility. Condensation and frost greatly impair visibility. If the vehicle has been left outdoors overnight, employees should leave extra time to scrape snow and frost from the windshield and windows, and should also allow time for defrosters to warm up before driving. A towel should be kept handy to remove inside condensation.

Equipment. Remind employees to regularly check tire tread wear and air pressure. In addition, inform them that gas tanks should be kept at least half-filled, and that cars should be equipped with emergency supplies, such as a flashlight with extra batteries, a blanket, flares, food and water, a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher. Depending upon local weather conditions, employees may wish to keep a bag of sand or cat litter in the trunk to increase traction in icy conditions, as well as a shovel to remove snow from around the tires.

Safe driving. Inform drivers of the need to utilize defensive driving techniques and to reduce speed on wet, muddy, icy or snow-covered roads. In addition, alert them to the dangers of invisible black ice on wintry roads.

Injuries tend to rise as temperatures drop. Remind caregivers and clients that the key to winter safety is being aware of conditions and risks, allocating more time for travel, dressing appropriately, maintaining vehicles carefully and consistently implementing basic hazard-prevention techniques.

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