Winter Weather Employee Safety Guide

February 18, 2021

Not only can winter conditions make working uncomfortable, but winter conditions can pose new hazards to employees. Hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration, slips, trips, and injuries from snowblowers or shovelling are all concerns for employees working in inclement weather conditions. It is important for employers and employees to be aware of these risks in order to stay safe. 

This booklet highlights the importance of winter weather protocols, how to prevent and prepare against cold illnesses, snow blower safety tips, and employee safety while shovelling snow. 

Winter Weather Protocol Basics

There are four basics of setting up a Winter weather protocol:

  • Schedule snow removal before employees arrive, with removal beginning at no more than ½ inch of accumulation
  • Establish and indicate a path of travel with markers to provide a safe entrance and exit for employees and clients
  • Stay in front of all hazards by performing constant inspections of your entire property
  • Keep up a regular snow maintenance routine, do not disregard steps of the protocol, and do not sideline maintenance tasks

Preparing & Preventing Against Cold Illness

  • Wear protective clothing; bundle up with at least three layers, wear a hat, boots, and gloves, avoid tight clothing, and unzip jackets when hot
  • Stay dry since moisture can increase the rate of heat loss from the body and keep a change of dry clothes available in case clothes become wet
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of liquids, but avoid caffeine and alcohol, since it is easy to become dehydrated in the cold
  • Buddy system; work in pairs to keep an eye on each other and watch for signs of cold stress
  • Work schedule; try to work during the warmer hours of the day and take breaks when it is especially cold
  • Learn to further prepare and prevent against cold illnesses here

Snow Blower Safety Tips

  • Avoid fumes; never start the snowblower indoors
  • Wear hearing protection; gas-powered equipment is loud and can cause hearing damage
  • Avoid loose clothing as it can get caught in any moving parts of the snowblower
  • Direct the snow; direct the chute to avoid damage or injuries around you
  • Clear the area; remove doormats, sleds, boards, wires, newspapers or anything else that could clog or damage the machine
  • Click here for even more snow blower safety tips

Tips for clogged snowblowers

  • Ensure the engine is off
  • Make sure the auger and impeller are stopped before clearing the clog
  • Use a clearing tool or stick to clean out ice and snow
  • Do not place hands or feet inside the machine to clear anything, even if the machine is stopped

Shovelling Snow Safety Tips

  • Take it slow to start and take frequent breaks
  • Stay hydrated
  • Wear layers
  • Don’t shovel after eating or while smoking
  • Don’t work to the point of exhaustion
  • Warm-up and stretch out before you begin
  • Know the signs of a heart attack
  • Use an ergonomically designed shovel
  • Shovel multiple times to avoid deep snow
  • Shovel only fresh, powdery snow
  • Lift with your legs, not your back
  • Push the snow rather than lifting it
  • For additional tips check out: snow shovelling safety tips

To keep your employees safe throughout all seasons, be sure to check out Friedlander Group’s resources concerning heating monitoring when employees are working outdoors, heat illnesses 101: symptoms, first aid and prevention, and preventing an employee injury in winter weather.