By Jasmyne Ferber, USAG Fort Meade Public Affairs

With winter weather quickly approaching, a new set of challenges and risks are also on the horizon. From icy sidewalks to freezing temperatures, ensuring your safety and preparedness during the winter season is crucial.

The winter season brings chilly temperatures and the potential for severe weather. Have a plan in place to ensure you and your loved ones are safe before a storm hits.

  • Create an emergency communication and disaster plan.
  • Stock up on food that does not require cooking or refrigeration and water stored in clean containers.
  • Confirm your cell phone is fully charged. Consider getting portable battery charge to keep on hand
  • Keep an up-to-date emergency kit, including:
    • Battery-operated devices, such as a flashlight, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio, and lamps
    • Extra batteries
    • First-aid kit and extra medicine
    • Baby items
    • Cat litter or sand for icy walkways.

Winter preparedness is not limited to off-duty hours. Hazards and risks exist during the workday as well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 20,460 ice, sleet, and snow-related injuries in 2017. Protect yourself from falls or slips by clearing snow and ice from walking surfaces and spread deicer as quickly as possible. If walking on snow or ice is unavoidable, make sure your footwear has good traction and insulation. When walking on icy paths, take shorter steps and walk at a slower pace to react quickly to changes in traction.

Falls are not the only workplace hazard that can come with plummeting temperatures. Cold stress – environmental conditions in which the body loses heat faster than it can produce it – can affect any worker exposed to cold air temperatures.

According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, approximately 1,300 people in the U.S. died from hypothermia in 2019. Of those 1,300, approximately 32 percent of those deaths were work-related. Hypothermia is just one of many cold stress conditions that occur when there is extremely cold or wet weather. Before venturing out into the cold, make sure to:

  • Wear appropriate clothing. Wearing several layers of loose clothing can provide adequate insulation from the elements.
  • Protect the ears, face, hands and feet in extremely cold or wet weather.
  • Limit the amount of time you are outside by moving into warm locations during breaks.
  • Carry extra socks, gloves, hats, jacket, blankets, a change of clothes and a thermos of hot liquid to keep warm.
  • Continuously monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers when outside.

Icy and snowy conditions also make for dangerous driving conditions. Every year, over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,00 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement and nearly 900 people are killed and nearly 76,000 people are injured in crashes during snowfall or sleet, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Make sure you and your loved ones arrive to your destination safely by keeping the following in mind:

  • Get your vehicle ready for cold weather. Service your car’s radiator and maintain its antifreeze level, check your tires’ tread and replace if necessary.
  • Prepare a winter emergency kit to keep in your car in case you become stranded. The kit should include:
    • Cell phone, portable charger and extra batteries
    • Items to stay warm such as extra hats, coats, mittens and blankets
    • Food and water.
    • Booster cables, flares, tire pump and a bag of sand or cat litter (for traction)
    • Compass and maps
    • Flashlight
    • Battery-powered radio
    • First-aid kit

For more information on winter weather preparedness, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guide to winter safety. 

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