Cold weather safety: How to keep technicians safe on winter roads

Service technicians spend considerable time navigating their communities by vehicle. This seemingly humdrum activity poses serious risks to workers, as roadway incidents occur with regularity. Roughly 88 car accidents occurred every day in the U.S. in 2015, according to research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. These unfortunate incidents claimed more than 35,000 lives that year. During the same 12-month span, just over 1,200 workers died in transportation accidents, accounting for more than one-quarter of all occupational fatalities recorded that year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In short, the road is a dangerous place for employees on any normal day.

During the wintertime, however, normally dangerous highways and byways become even more treacherous with the addition of ice and snow. Winter weather is an especially large problem in the Northeast and Midwest, where cities see multiple feet of snow fall annually. With this in mind, service businesses must prepare for hazardous driving conditions and equip their staff with the knowledge needed to safely serve customers even as temperatures drop and snow falls. Here are some of the most effective strategies for keeping technicians safe as they drive on winter roads:

Promote proper vehicle maintenance
Breakdowns are a huge hassle in spring, summer and autumn. But a bout of vehicle trouble during the winter months can leave drivers and passengers stranded in extreme weather. Service businesses can prevent this kind of situation from developing by properly maintaining service fleets, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The agency advises maintenance personnel to evaluate battery and tire tread levels before approving vehicles for winter service. Additionally, service businesses should ensure that key mechanical features such as exterior and interior lights and windshield wipers function properly before sending drivers out on the road.

"In 2015, more than 1,200 workers died in transportation accidents."

Stock vehicles with wintertime extras
While properly maintained vehicles are unlikely to falter, even in colder conditions, the National Safety Council recommends that service business managers plan for the unexpected and stock company automobiles with emergency equipment. Spare tires, jumper cables and snow melt should be at the top of the supply list. OSHA also advises field crews to carry blankets, food and water to use in the event they are stranded. These simple items can save lives and cost little to obtain. In the end, there is no excuse for failing to stock up on these supplies. 

Carefully plan field operations
Most service business supervisors are meticulous schedulers; it comes with the territory, after all. During winter, this skill is especially valuable, as something as simple as a work schedule can lead to immense improvements in worker safety, according to OSHA. How? By simply planning jobs ahead and determining the best driving routes based on weather reports, field leaders can help their crews avoid dangerous roadway situations.

Service businesses can keep their technicians safe this winter by using these easy-to-adopt strategies. They can also go a step further by implementing field service management software, which facilitates optimal field visibility and integrates with other safety-friendly modules, such as GPS fleet tracking. Service businesses interested in taking this approach should contact Service Fusion today.     

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