By K C Pawling, Road Safety and Loss Prevention Specialist
September already. I really don’t know if it is just me, but I certainly feel like Fall has arrived a little sooner than it typically does. Yes, I know that is not possible but again, it sure feels like it. With Fall sneaking in and my habit of forward thinking, I start thinking about all that needs to be done before the onset of, do I dare to say…winter.
So, with the first day of Fall being September 22, our focus as road departments is going to change with the season. We are going to start thinking about what we need to do to get our equipment ready for winter, but have we thought about ourselves as operators? I don’t know if it is because I have been dealing with my own health struggles, but I have been thinking about how stressful winter and moving snow can be on the operators.
I wanted to talk about OUR physical winter readiness with enough time for some action to be made if that is what is desired. We are reminded typically with the first snow fall that the frequency of heart attacks increases, slips, trips, and falls generally increase due to ice that develops overnight. As a reminder, during the cold weather months the muscles in our bodies become more tense. When all your joints and muscles are tighter, they’re less flexible, making them more susceptible to strains, sprains, and tears.
Our motor graders, loaders, and trucks are generally not designed with ease of entry and exit in mind. With the addition of ice into the mix, we can become very susceptible to the injuries listed above. What are we doing to avert injuries that can occur during a slip this winter? Along with wearing the proper PPE, and some extra situational awareness, consider adopting some department stretching exercises. I was at one time employed by a company that had a significant rise in muscle sprains and strains. The company safety department decided that we would, companywide, adopt some pre-shift stretches. I want you to understand that at first there was many of us that thought it was silly and a waste of time, but we soon figured out that it did help with the injuries. As time went on, we also figured out that it was a good time to discuss any pre-shift issues, and if nothing else, we told a few jokes.
If that does not seem like a possibility, consider doing some simple stretching exercises at home before reporting to work. If you’re thinking, why is he bringing this up now, it is because it takes time for your body to change when you start stretching. You will need to start slow and give your body time to change. It sure seems like it does not take long for us to get out of shape and much longer to get back into shape.
I know this is a slippery slope (pun intended) that we can head down. There are so many different contributing to factors to our physical well being in the winter. I don’t want to say that there is any one precaution that is more important than another. I do believe that if you take the next couple months to find and implement a stretching routine, you will save yourself a little pain and agony. If you need any assistance, let us know what we can do to help. Let’s make sure everyone makes it home every night.