Winter Safety Tips

by Mary-Jaye Salmon, Senior HSE Safety Trainer & Consultant at SICA

Working during winter feels more like survival of the fittest than an everyday challenge. The risks are much greater for employees who have to work and drive outdoors.

Here are a few safety tips to consider that should help keep you safe during this trying season.

Walking with your hands in your pockets

Although walking with your hands in your pockets sometimes keeps you warmer, this increases the risk of falling or losing your balance if you were to slip while walking on ice or snow. The consequences of which end up being rather unpleasant.

Mittens vs Gloves

Gloves look more fashionable in most cases but wearing mittens can actually save your life. With your fingers touching each other inside mittens, they generate more body heat than when they’re inside gloves. However, when working on a job site, mittens may not be so practical. Be aware that both gloves and mittens may cause an entanglement hazard if they don’t fit properly.

Appropriate Footwear and Clothing

Ensure that proper footwear is chosen for the conditions. Be aware that even though you may think you have soles with good traction, some soles are suited for warmer weather. The colder weather can cause those soles to react very differently than you would expect. Not much different than the difference between summer and winter tires. When it comes to clothing choices, for those of us who work outside, dressing in layers is most appropriate. Having a variety of layers allows us to be prepared for changing weather conditions.

Warm up before Shoveling

Before you get rid of all the snow and ice at your workplace, do some stretching exercises first. You can also march in place or walk for a couple of minutes. With your muscles all warm, not only will you work more efficiently, but you also reduce the risk of injuring yourself.

Coffee, Lattes, and Cigarettes

Before shoveling or doing any strenuous work, avoid caffeine and nicotine. Both substances increase your heart rate and may cause your blood vessels to constrict.

Kitty Litter or Salt

The debate between kitty litter and rock salt continues. Ice melt or rock salt helps melt the ice on slippery surfaces, while kitty litter can provide temporary traction. Kitty litter creates a mess as it gets tracked in everywhere, which can ultimately cause another slip hazard. It’s great when your car gets stuck, but not so great for the job site or sidewalk. It’s preferable to use ice melt/salt when required. Ensure it’s eco-friendly so it doesn’t cause damage to existing lawns or other surfaces.

Emergency Kit

Before going on the road, it’s a good idea to have an emergency kit that includes a tin can, candles, paper, waterproof matches, water, and some non-perishable food items (granola/energy bars, etc.). Having some extra winter clothing and a blanket or two is always a good idea as well.

Warm up Before Driving Away

Ensure your vehicle is clear of snow and ice on the windshield and other windows. Remove snow accumulations from the hood, roof and trunk areas as well. Remember you may need a few extra minutes in order to complete these tasks. Warming the inside of your vehicle before driving off will help with condensation build up, just don’t do it inside a closed garage.

Water Accumulations on the Road

As we recently have seen in the news, flooding can occur rather quickly without much warning. Be wary of water on the road, especially when the water is 6 or more inches in depth.


Mary-Jaye Salmon is a Senior HSE Trainer and Consultant for the Southern Interior Construction Association.   

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