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Winter warnings for Iowa workers

If you’ve been an Iowa resident for more than a year, you no doubt have a clear understanding of how inclement the weather can get during winter. In some ways, winter weather makes this state an attraction for snow enthusiasts who love to go snowmobiling or participate in other cold-weather sports. When you’re on the clock at work, however, and not enjoying your own free time, winter weather can pose significant safety hazards.

Your employer is obligated to provide you with proper training and available equipment to help you lower your risk for on-the-job accidents. There are certain issues that typically arise during winter that can make your workplace more dangerous than it might be during warmer months throughout the year.

Employers should control workplace hazards

No one can keep you 100% safe from potential hazards as you carry out your duties under normal workplace circumstances each day. Your employer should be mindful of numerous issues, however, that are known to have an impact on workers. The following list includes issues that create possible workplace dangers that tend to be prevalent during winter:

  • Strong winds
  • Freezing temperatures
  • Slippery roads and surfaces
  • Poor visibility in parking lots or other outdoor areas
  • Sleet or snowfall
  • Fog

One of more of these issues might be present as you arrive to work on a typical day, or may unexpectedly occur while you’re in the office or at a job site during an average workday.

Workplace injuries that often occur during winter

Winter in Iowa may include plummeting temperatures well below freezing and substantial snow accumulation. You’re at risk for numerous types of accidents or injuries in the workplace when such conditions are present, especially those listed here:

  • Slips and falls
  • Being struck by heavy projectile objects
  • Motor vehicle collisions
  • Electrocution
  • Hypothermia
  • Frostbite

Hypothermia and frostbite are major risks if your workplace duties require you to spend time outdoors. Prolonged exposure to cold temperatures may cause you severe, even life-threatening injuries. If a parking area or other hard surface at work is wet or covered in ice, you could wind up with a sprained ankle, broken bone or serious back injury if you fall.

Snowfall and fog cause visibility hazards and other impediments that make motor vehicle collisions more likely to occur, especially if driver negligence is a factor. Winter weather, such as heavy wind, snow and ice, can place added weight and pressure on power lines, increasing the risk of electrical accidents, if you work on or near electrical systems.

If you suffer an injury on the job in winter

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to take precautions during winter to help workers stay safe. For instance, employers or property owners may be obligated to keep walkways and parking lots cleared of snow and ice.

If you suffer an injury on the job, OSHA may investigate the incident to make sure no safety violations occurred. It’s always best to seek immediate medical attention following such incidents, not only so that doctors can assess your condition but also to create written documentation of the injury.