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Stay Safe This Winter!

Julie Copeland

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Each week, I share information about keeping workers safe in the workplace. For many of our blog Winter_Safety.jpgsubscribers, dealing with winter driving hazards and winter weather may be the most risk-associated part of the day.

As we’re coming off a record-breaking snowstorm that impacted millions of Americans this past weekend, there were many stories about accidents and unsafe practices that are worth noting. At Arbill, we’re not just concerned about your safety on the job. We want you to be safe at home and everywhere in between.

Now that we’re beyond the holidays when there is an extra danger on the roads due to distracted drivers, crazed shoppers and holiday-goers, regardless of the time of year, focusing on the roads and understanding the conditions is vital to your well-being.

Make sure your windows are clear and you remove snow and ice from your car – especially from your roof -- so it does not become a hazard for someone else. Test your brakes if the surface is not ideal so you will be prepared to stop at a safe distance.

Depending on where you live or travel, this time of year can bring other challenges in the form of snow, sleet and ice. The number of accidents rises at this time of year because many people simply don’t know how to drive in poor conditions or they are out of practice. From aggressive drivers of large SUV’s who feel the weather is not a factor for them… to those who drive too close and are unable to stop… my advice is to drive very defensively when the weather is bad. Expect the need to stop suddenly. Expect to skid on wet or icy roads. Don’t take needless risks. Slow and steady keeps you safe.

Another important consideration at this time of year involves older people. Large snow totals from the storm this past weekend led to many people digging out. Unfortunately, there were older people who passed away suddenly from shoveling activity. People in their late 70’s or older are more susceptible to having a heart attack when shoveling heavy snow in the cold.

Did you know that the risk of having a heart attack for some goes up as you shovel? This is especially true for those in poor physical condition or those with existing heart disease or a personal history of stroke.

Colder weather might increase vessel constriction and raise blood pressure. This coupled with the widely held belief that people generally don't live as healthy in winter as they do in summer, and they don't eat as well, and don't exercise as much can lead to serious trouble.

The combination of colder temperatures and physical activity increases the workload on the heart. People outdoors in cold weather should avoid sudden exertion, like lifting heavy snow. Even walking through heavy, wet snow or snow drifts can strain a person’s heart.

The American Heart Association recently shared some ideas on making snow removal safer. Whether you are responsible for shoveling snow at work or home, here is information worth sharing:

  • Give yourself a break.Take frequent rest breaks during shoveling so you don’t overstress your heart. Pay attention to how your body feels during those breaks.
  • Don’t eat a heavy meal prior or soon after shoveling.Eating a large meal can put an extra load on your heart. 
  • Use a small shovel or consider a snow thrower.The act of lifting heavy snow can raise blood pressure acutely during the lift. It is safer to lift smaller amounts more times, than to lug a few huge shovelfuls of snow. When possible, simply push the snow.
  • Learn the heart attack warning signs and listen to your body, but remember this: Even if you’re not sure it’s a heart attack, have it checked out (tell a doctor about your symptoms). Minutes matter! Fast action can save lives — maybe your own. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1
  • Don’t drink alcoholic beverages before or immediately after shoveling.Alcohol may increase a person’s sensation of warmth and may cause them to underestimate the extra strain their body is under in the cold.
  • Consult a doctor.If you have a medical condition, don’t exercise on a regular basis or are middle aged or older, meet with your doctor prior to exercising in cold weather.
  • Be aware of the dangers of hypothermia.Heart failure causes most deaths in hypothermia. To prevent hypothermia, dress in layers of warm clothing, which traps air between layers forming a protective insulation. Wear a hat because much of your body’s heat can be lost through your head. 
  • Learn CPR.Effective bystander CPR, provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest, can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival. Hands-only CPR makes it easier than ever to save a life. If an adult suddenly collapses, call 9-1-1 and begin pushing hard and fast in the middle of the victim’s chest until help arrives.

As reported by OSHA, approximately 400 workplace deaths from cardiac arrest occur each year. What makes that number even more frightening is that recent studies indicate that retention rates for CPR are extremely low. In fact as recently reported, only one third of trained participants could effectively perform CPR six months after initial training. Rates of CPR training retention drop off dramatically after just weeks.

The National Safety Council recommends that all adults learn CPR and first aid techniques in order to be competent to give assistance when injuries occur. Organizations should provide formal and ongoing training. They should provide incentives to learn and retain this knowledge, and make learning first aid/CPR a part of new employee training.

In addition to increasing first aid retention skills, ongoing training can foster a safety aware environment and culture and that nurtures confidence for responding effectively and quickly during a medical emergency situation.

Ongoing safety training is so important to saving lives and ultimately to your business. The goal of ongoing safety training is to create a level of awareness about safety issues and how to deal with these issues as well as instituting a culture that nurtures confidence in being able to respond quickly and effectively during an emergency.

Many accidents in the workplace – if not all of them – are 100% preventable through ongoing safety training efforts and using the personal protective equipment. When you take the time to follow through on providing training and equipment you greatly improve the well-being of your workers and protect your company from incurring expensive workers’ compensation costs.

To learn more about signing up your workers for ongoing safety training, call 800-523-5367 or click here to speak with a workplace safety specialist at Arbill

We encourage all of our safety partners and friends to lead a healthy and active life regardless of the time of year... and to be safe in the workplace, at home and on the road. Please consider the tips shared by the American Heart Association the next time you reach for a shovel… or deal with the snow.

Have a safe day!


Topics: Cold Stress/Winter Weather Safety

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