How to protect restaurant and retail workers as winter approaches

Winter is coming, and this year that means something entirely new for many Colorado restaurants and retailers, which have expanded their outdoor operations to help control the spread of COVID-19. 

Most want to continue conducting business outside as long as possible. Limited space indoors can make social distancing difficult. But increased outdoor time also means winter hazards may become a greater concern for employers. 

You can begin taking steps now to prepare your restaurant or retail site and workers for the months ahead. 

Of course, continuing to wear masks and practice social distancing remains a must no matter what the time of year. 

Here are winter-specific tips to keep workers safe outside: 

Beware of slips, trips and falls

More time outside means more chances to slip, trip and fall on icy or snow-covered walkways. 

Restaurant workers carrying trays or retail workers pushing racks of clothing may be particularly vulnerable to this hazard if they can’t see ahead of them. 

Protect your workers by: 

• Removing ice and snow from all your outdoor spaces:

This includes sidewalks and curbs, several times each day.

• Making sure everyone is aware of their surroundings:

 Many work environments may have changed with COVID-19 restrictions. Encourage workers to look around and take small steps.

• Ensuring employees wear appropriate footwear: 

Your workers may not have had to think about insulated, slip-resistant winter footwear in the past, but they might now in order to navigate work performed outside.

Make outdoor spaces compatible with state regulations

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently issued updated guidance on how to host customers outdoors as temperatures drop, outlining acceptable pop-ups and temporary structures

Outdoor spaces should have enough space and ventilation to encourage droplets and aerosols that may contain the COVID-19 virus to move out. 

To be considered an outdoor space, structures must have only one or two walls (fabric sheets and tarps count as walls) or be a single-party structure. 

Protect your restaurant and retail workers by: 

  • Using guidance from CDPHE to create compliant outdoor dining spaces. 
  • Airing out single-party structures between guests. 
  • Checking Colorado’s dial framework to determine acceptable capacity for outdoor settings and stay compliant with local zoning. 

Follow best practices when using outdoor tents and heating devices

Colorado has many beautiful days, but winters can present a challenge for outdoor dining and retail. When adding outdoor tents and temporary heating to your business, consider additional precautions. 

Protect your outdoor winter workers and patrons by:

  • Using wind-rated tents that are secured properly.
  • Removing snow accumulation.
  • Ensuring that proper permits are in place.
  • Coordinating efforts with your local county and fire department.
  • Following the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding location, spacing, storage and use of temporary heating. 
  • Increasing employee safety training during these unique situations.

Provide adequate training for driving in winter weather

While many retail and restaurant workers weren’t required to drive as part of their job before COVID-19, an increase in contactless delivery services has nudged more employees behind the wheel. 

Help keep your delivery drivers safe by:

• Encouraging employees to keep an emergency kit and supplies in their vehicles at all times. 

Supplies could include spare warm clothes, jumper cables, a flashlight, additional windshield wiper fluid, an ice scraper and a small shovel. 

• Discussing the importance of good vehicle maintenance, inspection and tire condition. 

Reviewing safe winter driving practices by:

  • Telling them not to stop while driving uphill. It may be hard to regain traction. 
  • Advising they increase following distance behind other cars to give more time to react if the vehicle ahead of them stops suddenly.
  • Encouraging them to drive slowly and accelerate and decelerate slowly. 
  • Reminding them of the importance of avoiding distracted driving — including no texting while driving. 

Check out our driving safety resources for more tips.  

Avoid cold stress during long work shifts

Staying outside on a job site when it’s cold; running back and forth between a warm kitchen and a freezing outdoor patio can lead to cold stress, resulting in a drop in body temperature and therefore job performance levels. 

Promote safe outdoor winter working practices by:  

  • Teaching them to recognize signs of cold stress, such as no longer shivering, feeling confused and experiencing slurred speech. 
  • Urging them to wear layers of clothing they can add or remove if they are standing or sitting outdoors for extended periods.
  • Giving out sweet, warm drinks they can enjoy during breaks to help their bodies warm up.

Prioritizing winter work safety during the COVID-19 pandemic

This winter may prove challenging, but by mitigating risks now, you can keep your employees safe while following COVID-19 protocols. 

Looking for more ways to help keep your workers safe during the coronavirus? 

Check out our other COVID-19 safety and business content or direct your questions to Pinnacol’s Safety On Call at

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