Safety tips – Part 3: the field service winter safety prep list

This blog is part three of a three-part series, to read our first two blogs, follow these links below:

Safety tips – Part 1: Beat the heat: field service safety tips for keeping workers safe

Safety tips – Part-2: Managing remote workers and field technicians

Throughout this series we’ve reviewed a variety of concerns that remote workers and field service technicians face. Winter weather brings its own set of unique challenges, and regardless of if you love it or hate it, winter is coming. In this blog we’ll be breaking down three key areas of extreme cold weather safety, and how to prepare your workers for all that ice and snow.

1) Hazards

Slipping and falling is a concern for everyone in the winter, and even more so for employees that are constantly outdoors.

  • Walk the right way – Short steps at a slow pace (penguin walk), and if possible, avoid carrying anything heavy.
  • Shovel snow, keep salt or sand in vehicles to deal with ice. Go over proper safe shoveling technique and explain the dangers associated with not shoveling correctly.
    • Mark areas that can’t be cleared or are particularly dangerous.
    • Workers should shovel at a steady pace, sweating can dampen clothing and cause a chill.
    • Push snow instead of lifting it.

Road accidents are always more prevalent in the winter months, and anyone driving or working on or near a road needs to apply extra caution.

  • Review how to safely drive during winter.
    • Schedule a practice during warmer months or in a more controlled environment, such as a parking lot.
  • Make sure your employees know how to operate everything in their fleet vehicle during winter.
    • Some employees may be embarrassed to ask for help, so a tutorial of what to do in certain conditions, what to check, etc., may be really helpful.
  • Go over what to do if an accident occurs, who to call, what forms to fill out, what else may be required for claim purposes.

Cold weather takes its toll on everything and everyone in the field.

  • Keep everyone in the field up-to-date on weather conditions and have them check in often.
  • Ensure vehicle and equipment maintenance is occurring more frequently, especially before severe weather warnings.
    • Mandate that fuel levels are always around the half tank mark whenever possible.
  • Schedule frequent food, hydration, rest, and warm up breaks.
    • Working in teams is always best.
  • Have a plan if an employee gets stranded; provide emergency kits in the fleet vehicles and for remote work locations.
    • Include things like: emergency flares, blankets, extra clothing, water and snacks.
  • Have technology solutions installed and/or tools customized that can ensure your workers safety such as panic alert buttons, working alone timers and capture GPS location coordinates.

2) Gear

Appropriate clothing and equipment is absolutely essential. It should be routinely checked by supervisors, both that it’s being used and is still effective.

  • Ideal layering includes a wicking layer, lighter layer, heavier layer, and a wind and water-proof outer layer.
    • Avoid cotton and down.
  • Goggles may be necessary to protect from cold related eye damage.
  • The toes, fingers, ears, and nose are at most risk for frostbite.
    • Toques, gloves, mittens, glove liners, socks, spare socks, gaiters, balaclavas; protecting extremities needs to be a priority.
  • Provide high visibility gear, flares, traffic cones, and whatever else is feasible to protect your employees if they are stopped and need to exit their vehicle.
  • Boots with a proper winter cold rating and good tread are vital.

3) Health

Aside from strenuous activity like shoveling snow being a concern, frequent breaks and extra caution need to be applied during the winter, particularly during extreme cold.

  • Stress the importance of regular health check-ups.
  • Workers should remember to move, stay hydrated, and well fed when outdoors.
  • Cold weather injury can occur at only 16 ͦC (60 ͦF).
  • Consider posting the signs and symptoms of frostbite and hypothermia in fleet vehicles.
    • Frostbite
      • At first, cold skin and a prickling feeling
      • Numbness
      • Red, white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin
      • Hard or waxy-looking skin
      • Clumsiness due to joint and muscle stiffness
      • Blistering after rewarming, in severe cases
  • Hypothermia
    • Slurred speech or mumbling
    • Slow, shallow breathing
    • Weak pulse
    • Clumsiness or lack of coordination
    • Drowsiness or very low energy
    • Confusion or memory loss
    • Loss of consciousness

Safety First

Having extreme cold weather safety training and protocols for your field service workers shouldn’t be overlooked.  Start your winter prep early and get workers involved to ensure their safety when the temperatures drop.

Is your FSM solution set up to make winter safety easier? Contact our experts for assistance, or even more Field Service insight.

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