Menu

Inclement weather can mean an increase in injured workers

SAIF reminds employers to take precautions with snow and ice in the forecast.

posted December 06, 2016

With possible snow and ice in the forecast this week, it's important to keep workplace safety top of mind-even for offices and other businesses that aren't frequently exposed to the elements.

That's according to recent data from SAIF, which suggests a correlation between low temperatures and precipitation and an increase in workplace injury claims.

"Because 2015 was an unseasonably warm year and 2016 was more typical with snow and ice, we can compare January and February with the year prior to see how much the colder weather impacted injury claims," said Paul Stutz, a claims technical analyst with SAIF. "What we found is that there were significant increases in slips, trips, and falls in January and February of 2016, and injuries specifically tied to snow and ice increased by more than 250 percent."

According to Jim Nusser, a senior safety management consultant with SAIF, there are precautions employees and employers can take to minimize risk during the winter months.

For employers, Nusser offers the following tips:

  • Have an inclement weather procedure that addresses who will be responsible for clearing snow and ice from sidewalks, steps, and pathways.
  • Consider allowing some staff to work from home when feasible, or allow staff to stay home or arrive late if conditions are expected to improve as the day warms up.
  • Put a mat at the entryway, if it has a hard surface like tile, so workers' shoes don't leave wet footprints that could increase the risk of slips.

Employees can find inspiration from an animal familiar with avoiding icy slips and falls: the penguin.

"We encourage employees to ‘walk like a penguin' in the parking lot or on the pathways around work if it may be icy," said Nusser. "Pointing your toes slightly to the sides and walking with a short stride can reduce your risk of slipping."

Employees should also ensure they have slip-resistant footwear with good traction on the heel of the shoe.

SAIF's data also shows an increase in motor vehicle accident claims in this time frame, increasing from 149 in 2015 to 201 in 2016, a 35 percent increase.

For safer driving in snowy and icy conditions, Nusser recommends the following tips:

  • Consider staying home or reducing the amount of travel.
  • Drive slowly.
  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly.
  • Keep a following distance of eight to 10 seconds. 
  • Be aware that bridges may develop ice before other sections of road.

Employers can find more tips for cold weather—including for employees working outside who face exposure risks—at SAIF's Safety and Health page on saif.com.

About SAIF
SAIF is Oregon's not-for-profit, state-chartered workers' compensation insurance company. Since 1914 it has been caring for injured workers and helping to make workplaces safer. For more, visit the About SAIF page on saif.com