Some view winter weather as a welcome excused absence from work or school. Others must still find their way into the office. What they don’t want to encounter on their way are slick sidewalks, power outages, or the worst – inching your way through icy gridlock only to learn after they’ve battled the weather that the office is, in fact closed. “Sorry,” simply won’t suffice.
Reduce your risk for injuries and dissatisfied employees by doing your part to protect and inform them on bad weather days. You may not be able to stop the snow, rain, and wind, but you can ensure every employee has a safe way to an office that is in working condition.
1. Get Them There Safely
You can’t make the roads to your office building safe, but you can inform your employees which roads are passable. This isn’t always easy, especially if you have employees on different devices and in various locations.
Geotargeting is a great way to focus communications within particular areas that are affected by hyperlocal weather. When embedded in your mass communications system, you instantly have a simple and quick way to send impacted employees a push notification or text, notifying them of the safest route. You can even see issues (like road closures) on a map so you can notify employees of relevant travel issues.
Related: Winter Weather Preparation Checklist
Of course, follow weather reports and use your best judgment if the roads are too risky. Sometimes, it’s just better for everyone to have the day off or be able to work from home. If working from home is a possibility for some or all of your employees, be sure to have a plan in place that stipulates who may work from home. Also let them know how they can connect to the office remotely and what tasks you expect them to complete.
2. Prepare Mobile and Outdoor Employees
If you have personnel who must drive for their job, it’s your duty to properly train and equip them. Be sure to check out these driving safety tips for employees for great advice that all drivers should know before trying to drive in winter weather.
Employees who work outdoors are also vulnerable to weather conditions. Many times, these workers will need to halt their duties until the weather clears. On the other hand, some (like electrical repair crews) are even busier during bad weather. When these workers are in the elements, they can be in particular danger of injuries and accidents.
Equip them with a way to call for immediate help. SafeSignal, for example, is an easy-to-use mobile app and monitoring system designed specifically for these situations. Without pushing a button, the outdoor worker can pull a tether from their smartphone, even when the phone is locked. SafeSignal will instantly send an emergency distress signal to the AlertMedia Monitoring Center. Using GPS and pre-completed personal information such as location specifics and clothing worn by employee, AlertMedia will contact law enforcement with all of the details they need to quickly respond onsite.
3. Fortify the Office
Did you know that falls involving ice, sleet, or snow are one of the biggest risks people face during the winter months? In fact, in 2014, there were 42,480 workplace injuries involving snow and ice that required at least one day away from work to recuperate. And those are just the falls that people reported!
You can’t prevent all falls, but you can salt the parking lot, sidewalks, and steps ahead of time. You can also place large, absorbent mats at every entrance to prevent slips once employees are inside the building.
Ask your building’s superintendent to check the heating and electric systems, as it is common for power lines to go down in ice storms or high winds. These power outages can last for days, crippling operations for any business. Should power go down while employees are at work, be sure you have a plan as to if and how employees are expected to continue to work, as well as a communication plan in place to notify employees of the outage and their instructions.
4. Communicate Effectively and Often
Your employees are going to expect some type of communication when they know a big storm is coming. Don’t leave them hanging! A mass communication system with geotargeting capabilities is a perfect solution to ensure the right messaging about the storm is getting to those employees who will be most affected. Don’t rely on email or voicemails. Those can get lost in the shuffle, if they are ever checked at all.
An emergency alert system is designed to reach every employee, despite their physical location, on multiple communication channels. This means your employees can receive alerts and notifications on their mobile device via texts, push notifications, email and/or voice calls that can either provide all of the relevant information or direct them to a link to a comprehensive web page. No matter where they are, what they do, or what mobile device they are using, they will receive the information they need. You can also use the geotargeting system to segment your audience by location so that only the employees in the affected area receive the notifications.
5. Don’t Dismiss Other Winter Threats
Bad winter weather isn’t the only thing companies and employees must grapple with during the winter months. Colder temperatures often come with a rise in illnesses, such as the flu. According to the CDC, influenza often begins to increase in October and November, peaking from December through February.
The employee notification system is a great way to inform employees of the rise in illnesses and how they can take precautions to not spread it around the office. Use the system to communicate office reports of the flu, tips on keeping their workspace and public areas sanitized, and protocols for when they find themselves under the weather.
Beyond illnesses, winter often brings a higher risk for fires. People turn up the heat, using space heaters, fires, and even ovens to warm a home. If you allow space heaters in the office, be sure to educate your employees on proper use, such as not placing anything within three feet of the heater.
What Your Employees Want to Know
It’s easy to assume employees will be watching the news and weather reports like you, but many won’t. Be sure you have a way to communicate with all of your employees about the weather and its disruptions in the schedule. Using an emergency notification system will guarantee they stay in the know with accurate information.
What do they most need to know?
- If commutes have become impossible
- If power outages or surges will impact their work
- Emergency contact information
- Status of any delivery delays
- Any modifications to work hours and/or shifts
- Where they can find updates
- If they can work from home
The most important thing you can do is let your employees know you have their best interest at heart. This means keeping them informed before, during, and after the weather event. The fortunate part about most winter weather storms is that they are predictable, and therefore plannable. Be sure your emergency plan is current and relevant to each location. Ensure every employee understands the intricacies of the plan.
Do what you can now to prepare and be sure you have a communication system that will help you get the word out fast. It will make these cold winter months more tolerable for you and your employees.
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