Addressing Autumn Workplace Safety Hazards

Addressing Autumn Workplace Safety Hazards

With fall in the air, it is time once again to say goodbye to summer. While COVID-19 safety protocols are occupying much of our thoughts on safety these days, it is important also to remember routine maintenance and safety procedures.

As temperatures cool and the days grow shorter, here are a few simple tips on how to keep your organization safe this fall.

Trees and gutters

While the weather is still warm enough, now is the time to take care of outdoor maintenance to prepare your facility for the cooler months to come and be ready for whatever Mother Nature has in store. Autumn tree maintenance is essential to help prevent winter property damage during severe weather events. Perform a thorough inspection of trees before winter sets in, checking for decay or fungus. Remove broken or cracked branches, but never remove limbs that have electrical wires running through them; call your electricity provider instead.

While checking for tree hazards, also check gutters around your facility. Gutters are critical in controlling drainage from rain, snow and melting ice, and preventing flooding inside and outside the building. Gutters also are needed to handle flood-level downpours in all seasons. It is important to run tests of gutters and downspouts to be sure water does not back up and to check the outflow of downspouts to push water away from building foundations. Fall is the perfect time for gutter work as it can be very difficult to get this work done once winter comes full force.

Sidewalks and parking lot areas

If your sidewalks, walkways and parking lots are showing damage from summer rain, you can be sure ice and snow will make it worse. Prevent worker trips and falls and additional concrete deterioration by checking for and sealing cracks in sidewalks and paved areas.

A sidewalk doesn’t have to be physically damaged to be unsafe. Leaves falling to the ground can become very hazardous if they are not properly cleaned up. Wet leaves are dangerous and can cause any walking surface to become very slick, quickly. Remove any leaves that have fallen on your walking areas as soon as possible. Even without leaves, cooler temperatures can produce unexpected icy sidewalks. Even though it’s not the dead of winter, there can still be freezing temperatures at night that leave lingering icy spots in the morning. Be prepared to put down salt or another anti-slip material on sidewalks, even in the fall.

Leaky hoses also can damage sidewalks. As the watering season ends, disconnect, remove and store your outdoor hoses. Hoses that remain attached to the spigot through the winter will create problems. The connection and trapped water freeze, which ultimately damages your plumbing. When you take the hoses in, close all inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs, and open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain.

Lighten up the dark

Poorly lit businesses are attractive targets for burglars, a problem only compounded by the extended periods of darkness that come with the fall. The switch from daylight saving time is an ideal reminder to check that all lighting in and around your parking lots and other outdoor areas is functioning as it should. Not only will it deter thieves and vandals, but it can help prevent slips, trips and falls. Also, consider posting clear signage reminding everyone to lock their cars and take their valuables with them.

Installing and maintaining proper interior and exterior lighting for your organization can make intruders think twice about attempting a break-in and can make it easier to identify anyone if they try. If you haven’t already, you might think about installing a professional security system. Studies show that professionally installed alarm systems act as major deterrents against burglary and vandalism. Modern cameras have come a long way, and many have excellent night vision features for those long fall nights.

Inside your facility

The time change is also a good time to check smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors, as carbon monoxide poisoning risks increase during the winter months. Fall is an excellent time to replace batteries, test your detectors, and perform a general system diagnostic to ensure you will be alerted in the event of an emergency.

Prior to the cold weather setting in, have your pipes insulated, especially pipes close to outside walls, attics or crawl spaces where the chance of freezing is greatest. Inspect areas around the pipes for any air leaks and seal them as soon as possible.

Be prepared—winter is coming

Just as summer has come and gone, so too will fall. Don’t wait until the snow is already here to stockpile necessary safety supplies for the winter. Purchase salt and shovels, line up snow plowing services, check boilers and furnaces, and collect emergency blizzard and power outage supplies. Doing it in advance will mean less to worry about when the weather takes a turn for the worse.

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