Ask the HR Department: Three common winter hazards: How can employers prepare?

By HR and health & safety consultancy Peninsula Canada

Employers have the legal obligation to take all reasonable precautions to ensure a safe workplace. This includes identifying seasonal hazards and taking the necessary steps to reduce any related risks. Failure to do so can result in injuries and absences as well as litigation.

We first recommend reviewing and updating your Health and Safety policies, so all employees are prepared for the following most common winter hazards:

Slips and falls. The risk of falls is significantly higher due to snowy conditions so it’s important to identify any areas around your workplace that can be dangerous when wet or icy, such as parking lots, pathways, and side entrances.

Winter commutes. Travelling to work whether by car or public transit can be challenging during severe winter weather. Having an inclement weather policy to provide clarity on the procedures to follow on severe weather days is important. It can help you prepare for sudden work closures due to an emergency.

An inclement weather policy establishes the procedures your business will follow if it temporarily closes due to harsh weather, a natural disaster, or an emergency. The policy should also communicate how employees would be notified of a business closure and whether they will be paid during the closure.

Mental health. The cold winter months can sometimes feel very long and cause some people to experience seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

The fear, anxiety, and prolonged isolation imposed by the COVID pandemic have also highlighted the importance of mental health. Wellness programs and activities are a great resource for employees to have in place. If you don’t have any programs available, you can offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP provides confidential counselling services to employees who may be going through personal challenges.

Peninsula is an HR and Health and Safety consulting firm serving over 80,000 small businesses worldwide, including dealers in home improvement. Clients are supported with ongoing updates to their workplace documentation and policies as legislation changes. Additionally, clients benefit from 24/7 employer HR advice and are protected by legal insurance.