Cold winter weather is nothing to mess around with. Working outside or in really cold areas can be hazardous and even fatal to every worker. You need to have protocol in place to make sure your employees are protected from potentially slipping on snow and ice, suffering the effects of hypothermia, and enduring cold stress.

Here are three ways to prep for winter safety.

1. Remove unwanted snow and ice

Snow and ice in the workplace are dangerous for several reasons. First, and most obviously, your workers or customers risk slipping and injuring themselves from a nasty fall. It’d be easy to break or fracture a bone or suffer a laceration, not to mention possibly damage equipment or inventory in the process. Snow and ice on rooftops can cause leaks or worse, cause the roofs to collapse and injure or kill employees, so it’s important to remove snow from decks and roofs as soon as possible. Use shovels, snow blowers, rakes, or de-icing material.

2. Train your employees

Workers should be informed cold-induced illnesses and injuries, such as hypothermia and frostbite. They need to be able to recognize these hypothermia symptoms in themselves and in their co-workers—slow, irregular breathing, severe shaking, slower heartbeat, uncontrollable shivering, drowsiness, exhaustion, and slurred speech. Frostbite symptoms include paleness, sensation of coldness or pain, freezing tissues that harden and cause a cessation of pain. Instruct them to use a buddy system in the cold, so that they’re never working alone and can keep an eye out for one another’s symptoms. They should know when it’s just too cold to work and to take breaks throughout their shift to go in and warm up, particularly if the wind is especially frigid one day. And if there are tasks that can be performed indoors, do it! Encourage your workers to heat hot pasta dishes, sounds and other foods that are rich in calories.

3. Wear proper clothing and equipment

Cold weather means to dress in layers! It’s better to wear several thin layers of clothing instead of just a few thick layers. Use synthetic materials that don’t absorb sweat and choose fabrics that are waterproof or wind-resistant. Wear gloves, hats, scarves and hoods that cover your neck, head, and ears. Avoid wearing tight-fitting socks or leggings that restrict blood flow. Your boots or shoes should be wide enough for you to wear one thick to two pairs of thin socks. And wear the right eye protection. Excessive ultraviolet rays that reflect off the ice and snow can cause eye injury, so shades are a good idea.

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