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Road safety: winter edition

Winter road safety

Travelling on snow and ice-laden roads to deliver training and consulting to firms across the province for over 100 years, WSPS consultants know a thing or two about the perils of winter driving.

"People who drive for work and to work, face the same winter risks," says Clinton Brown, WSPS Health and Safety Consultant. Among the hazards: black ice, slippery surfaces, snowstorms, reduced visibility, and the bad habits of other drivers. 

“Training is understood and accepted for other workplace hazards, like confined space entry or working at heights” says Clinton. “But many don’t realize how dangerous driving can be.” According to the WSIB, motor vehicle collisions on Ontario roads are one of the leading causes of worker fatalities.  

Here are some tips to help you and your employees stay safe behind the wheel.

Develop policies

Driver safety policies and procedures set out rules and expectations around responsible driving and include training, support, monitoring, and reporting. 

“If employees drive more than 500 km each year for work, you may consider having them take a defensive driving course,” says Clinton.

To keep all workers safe, implement an inclement weather policy for closing the facility in advance of severe weather. Also, ensure your employees have a safe place to shelter, should they need to. Consider, does this travel have to happen now?  Can this be a phone call or virtual meeting instead?

Create awareness

As with all workplace hazards, ensure you consistently talk about road safety to keep it top of mind.

Anyone who drives can benefit from information and advice on how to stay safe on the road. When the weather turns, consider including reminders in your Safety Talks or newsletters, or posting information on staff bulletin boards or Intranet. 

Vehicle safety tips

Ensure your vehicle is ready to hit the road and you’re equipped with what you need in case of an emergency.

  • Regularly check defrosters/heaters, antifreeze levels, brakes and battery.
  • Ensure lights and indicators are working.
  • Use snow tires. Winter tires use specialized rubber compounds, unique tread designs, and biting edges engineered to maximize traction in freezing temperatures and on snowy and icy surfaces. “Increased traction means you can stop in shorter distances and have greater control when steering,” advises Clinton.
  • Invest in winter-specific wiper blades (if available for your make and model) and carry extra windshield washer fluid.  
  • Check road and weather conditions before you head out. “Ontario 511 shares real time traffic conditions and is a great resource for planning your route,” suggests Clinton.  
  • Completely clean-off the outside of your car before heading out; chunks of ice and snow can pose a hazard to you and others.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to prevent moisture in the fuel line.
  • Carry winter survival gear including a blanket, first aid kit, food that won't spoil (e.g. granola bars), water, matches, extra clothing and boots, a shovel, flashlight, flares, and booster cables.
  • Ensure your cell has a full charge. And consider investing in a portable power bank for added safety and security.

Winter driving tips

  • Slow down and adjust your speed for weather and road conditions.  If necessary, allow more time to get to where you are going.
  • Understand how your car reacts in winter. All-wheel, front-wheel, and rear-wheel drive vehicles handle differently. “Front-wheel drive vehicles are most common,” says Clinton. “These vehicles hold most of their weight at the front, giving the front tires more traction.” 
  • Keep a safe distance from other cars. “Most of the time we recommend leaving a 2 second following distance; however, in the winter months, 4 or 5 seconds should be your norm.”  
  • Stay alert and don't get distracted. Avoid talking on cell phones, reading, texting, grooming, eating and drinking. Also, pay close attention to other drivers who appear distracted.

How WSPS can help

Tap into our consultants' expertise. We can help you develop a winter driving policy and procedures, or provide awareness sessions on winter driving hazards.

In addition to road safety, there are other seasonal health and safety considerations. Check out the Winter Safety page on WSPS’ Resource HUB for information and resources.