During the Winter months, planning for severe weather should be a top priority for operations and safety leaders. Businesses should develop a Winter Weather Response Plan that outlines areas of business risk and how to mitigate the impacts of severe winter weather. Following are four steps to develop an appropriate plan for your business.
1. Obtain Weather Forecasts – Obtain frequent and detailed weather forecasts from local meteorologists. Prior to mobilizing for work, be sure to understand the forecast conditions including the temperature, wind chill, precipitation (rain, sleet, freezing rain or snow), timing, and duration of severe winter weather.
2. Assess Business Sensitivities – Assess your business sensitivities to severe winter weather including employee safety, facility limitations, and transportation.
- Employee Safety – Cold stress can cause hypothermia or frostbite which can have long-term effects. Provide sufficient and adequate cold weather clothing including multiple layers and personal protective equipment (PPE). Also provide a heated workspace or a break area to warm up. Finally, evaluate the risk of slipping and falling in snow or ice and take appropriate caution.
- Facility Limitations – Consider what impact freezing temperatures may have on your facilities. How long can the facility withstand certain temperatures? Are there pipes that might freeze? Is there temperature-sensitive equipment, machinery, or technology that will freeze? Further, are there structural weaknesses to buildings that may be impacted by heavy snow or strong winds? How can the facility survive extended power outages? It may be necessary to drain water lines or protect critical equipment with additional insulation or space heating.
- Transportation – Monitor if road conditions will be impacted by snow or ice. Should road conditions make it too dangerous to travel, safety managers should have enough emergency supplies on-site to last through an event. They should also update journey management protocols to prepare company vehicles, as employees could temporarily get stuck away from the main facilities.
3. Create an Action Plan – Develop a comprehensive response plan for all business risks based on operating temperature thresholds. A specific temperature or precipitation alert should be defined to trigger the response plan. An effective plan should consider the worst-case scenario. Finally, develop a timeline to implement each preparedness action at the right time.
4. Practice – Prior to the arrival of severe winter weather, practice the response plan to improve preparedness and ensure all team members are ready to act in the event of severe winter weather.
For more information, read “Four Steps to Stay Safe and Operational During the Winter” published on EHS Today.