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12 Days of HR: Dashing Through the Snow in a One-Horse Open Sleigh Could Result in a Work-Related Injury

3 Day ChristmasAs every New Englander knows, during this time of year the roads get frosty and even short trips become trickier. Even the most responsible employer cannot fully protect his employees from slip and falls in the parking lot following a snowstorm, or fender-benders while traveling for work. As a result, it makes sense to remind your employees about steps to take to minimize the risk of an injury while out and about on company business.

First, a policy not to use cell phones while driving on company business is essential. The last thing any employer needs is a distracted employee-driver out on a snowy road, barreling along with the company logo prominently on display as the vehicle smashes into the car ahead. If a work-related call is necessary, the employee must pull over and focus all of his or her attention on the call. During snowstorms, it may make sense to be even more cautious about where the employee pulls the vehicle over, as in slippery conditions, it is possible to be the victim of another vehicle sliding into the company vehicle even on the shoulder of the road.

Next, remind your maintenance folks to be vigilant about keeping all company areas free of snow, ice and other possible hazards. While reminding the maintenance staff about this expectation, take the time to also remind them to take regular stretch breaks to ensure that no one has a stiff or sore back, neck, arms or wrists simply trying to do the job.

And should your company hold a holiday gathering at which any alcohol is served, make sure to have a plan for any employee who wishes to take company-provided transportation, no questions asked, home from the event. An ounce of prevention is worth the cost of an Uber home from the party. It is also a good idea to make sure parking for the event is in a well-lit, public area, as no one wants to have a work-related assault claim on their experience rating.

So sing Jingle Bells at the top of your lungs, but first make sure to complete an end-of-year workers' compensation safety audit. Here are some highlights that should be included:

  1. Who is responsible for keeping our employee and visitor parking areas free from snow, ice and other hazards? Are we satisfied with the responsiveness to these hazards? If not, how are we going to move forward to ensure a safe parking area?
  2. Are we following a stretch break protocol for all employees and especially those who may have to engage in heavier, more physical work due to the weather?
  3. Do we have safety methods in place to address any snow that is tracked into the facility, to ensure that there are no slippery areas?
  4. Do employees have an area where they can change out of snow-covered boots and into work-appropriate footwear? Is this area regularly maintained to ensure no slippery surfaces?
  5. Are we satisfied that our employees know the proper chain of reporting to communicate any injury that they feel arises out of and in the course of employment?
  6. Do our preferred providers ask employees who present for treatment what they are doing outside of work that might have caused or contributed to injury claims, at the outset of any questioned claim?
  7. Do our current employment policies adequately account for safety for employees when they are traveling for work?
  8. Do our employees have any suggestions for making the workplace safer in winter?

For more information on the topic of maintaining a safe workplace during the holiday season or at any time, contact a member of the Verrill Dana Labor and Employment law team.

Topics: Workers' Compensation