AS inclement winter weather continues to impact regions across the province, WorkSafeBC is reminding employers about their responsibility to protect workers from weather-related hazards. These hazards include extreme temperatures, wet and slippery walkways, and poor road conditions.
“Anticipating the risks is key — as working in cold-weather conditions can lead to serious injuries if you’re not prepared,” said Barry Nakahara, Senior Manager of Prevention Field Services at WorkSafeBC, on Friday.
“For outdoor workers, cold stress injuries are an issue. Workers who drive as part of their job could be faced with hazardous road conditions, and workers from a range of industries could be impacted by slippery or wet sidewalks, walkways, and thoroughfares.”
Key risks during winter weather include:
- Cold stress: Between 2017 and 2021, close to 100 claims were accepted by WorkSafeBC for injuries related to cold stress—with 80 per cent of those occurring during the winter months (November–March).
- Slips, trips and falls: Wet, snowy, and icy conditions can lead to slips, trips, and falls for workers in any sector. WorkSafeBC sees an approximate 11 per cent increase in injuries caused by slips, trips and falls between November and March — many of them resulting in serious injuries, including fractures, sprains, and dislocations.
- Motor vehicle incidents: Winter weather and driving conditions can vary greatly across B.C., ranging from blizzard conditions and icy roads to heavy rain and wet roads. As a result, workers are 18 per cent more likely to be injured in a motor vehicle incident during the winter.
Employers are responsible for managing risks in the workplace and taking reasonable steps to prevent injuries. Changing workplace conditions — including changes in weather — mean that risk assessments must be revisited on a regular basis, says WorkSafeBC.
“Managing risk in your workplace involves thinking about what might cause harm to your workers and ensuring measures are in place to keep them safe,” said Nakahara.
WorkSafeBC stresses that effective health and safety programs during winter weather involve everyone, including front-line workers, members of the Joint Health and Safety Committee, managers, and supervisors.
“Your frontline workers should be actively engaged in risk assessments and the implementation of controls to keep everyone safe,” said Nakahara.
WorkSafeBC has the following resources available to assist employers and workers stay safe this winter:
- Cold Stress: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/health-safety/hazards-exposures/cold-stress
- Winter Driving: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/health-safety/hazards-exposures/driving-work/types/winter-driving
- Shift into Winter: https://roadsafetyatwork.ca/campaign/shift-into-winter/
- Slips, Trips, and Falls: https://www.worksafebc.com/en/health-safety/hazards-exposures/slips-trips-falls