Managing Winter Weather Roadways

Whether you reside in the northeast or in Southern Texas, the recent weather patterns have definitely cast a shadow over morning commutes and jobsite travel. Freezing temperatures partnered with excessive moisture have resulted in treacherous roadways of ice and snow. Just recently, the Eagle Ford Shale of Texas was forced to combat slick roadways with frigid temperatures plummeting and remaining unseasonably cold. 

While some businesses close or alter their work schedules, others push forward as needed to offer their services and meet their responsibilities. Great effort must be exerted in getting to and from work in a safe manner, and employers are tasked with providing safe conditions should their workforce travel in these dangerous conditions. 

Vehicle Inspections 

A great step in managing winter weather driving can be had with a robust and proactive plan to combat the hazards. Preparation is key and ensuring mechanical capability of the vehicle to be driven can mean the difference between arriving safely to the destination or being stranded on the side of a dangerous highway. 

Drivers should always inspect their vehicles prior to even putting them in gear. Vehicle inspections should be mandated as a requirement for all company or fleet vehicles. Although companies cannot instruct their workforce to inspect their personal vehicles, the hope is that employees recognize the value in a procedure of this magnitude and carry the process into their personal lives. 

Vehicle inspections typically include items such as tire pressure and functionality of a working horn. Considering winter weather travel can involve decreased visibility and icy roadways, vehicle inspections should include relevant factors that focus on inclement weather driving conditions. Headlights and taillights should function properly, and tire pressure should be at optimum levels all the way around the vehicle. Other good items to verify are working heat and defrost features inside the vehicle. A lack of these comforts can result in a hazy windshield or one that begins to freeze over while driving. Obstructed visibility almost guarantees a hazardous outcome. 

Leveling the Field with Technology 

As a society, we have advanced far past the times of straining to find destinations, slowing and stopping while motoring on highways as to not miss the turn, and inadequate vehicular

engineering. Standard features found on most vehicles today were once special or add-on products costing additional money. Most vehicles today come with all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive that offers increased control on roadways plagued with ice and standing water. Speeds should still be reduced, and drivers should refrain from making over corrections while cautiously proceeding down the road. 

Whether it is sourced from the cellular device or from an onboard system as part of the vehicle, navigation capability can play a critical role in enabling driver safety when the wintery conditions blow precipitation across the roadways or camouflage it making them difficult to identify. 

Setting the destination location through navigational services can communicate turns to drivers struggling to obtain a sufficient view through the windshield. Turns are predicted, and this assists drivers in avoiding sudden stops that can result in rear ending and collisions. 

Stop Work Authority 

Employers can possess the greatest of intentions when providing for workplace safety. The process of hazard analysis is the same when addressing winter weather driving, with elimination being the best method to avoiding a hazard. Since companies cannot control or remove the weather, engineering controls are established and can include applications such as outfitting vehicles with four-wheel drive. Companies can further attempt to ensure workplace safety with administrative controls, such as journey management programs that dictate the precautions taken when driving in sleeting and snowing conditions. 

These are all great strides taken in managing safety, but the ultimate level of control can be had at the hands of the person dealing firsthand with the hazards themselves. In these instances, as with many, employees have the right to exercise Stop Work Authority and refrain from putting themselves into what they consider too dangerous to attempt to navigate or experience. 

Many different work settings can be dangerous. Heavy construction and the energy sectors both bring various hazards, but the employer cannot deliberately put these individuals in harm’s way. Stop Work Authority is the ultimate insurance policy for employees acting responsibly and doing what most safety cultures strive to teach, and that is to manage one’s own personal safety. 

Nick Vaccaro is a freelance writer and photographer. Besides providing technical writing services, he is an HSE consultant in the oil and gas industry with nine years of experience. He also contributes to Louisiana Sportsman Magazine and Masonry Magazine. Nick has a BA in

Photojournalism from Loyola University and resides in the New Orleans area. 210-240-7188 [email protected]

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