• Stay Safe in the Cold: Snow Removal Safety Facts You Need Now


    You already know how important it is to protect your workers with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when they’re working outside in extremely cold weather conditions. Illnesses such as frostbite, hypothermia and cold stress are significant threats to workers’ well-being.

    At the same time, the actual jobs workers perform outside during the winter months can also jeopardize their health—specifically snow shoveling and using power equipment, such as snow blowers, as well as removing snow from roofs.

    Snow shoveling can cause exhaustion, dehydration, back injuries and heart attacks, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

    To safely shovel snow, encourage your workers to follow these tips from the National Safety Council:

    • If over the age of 40 or relatively inactive, be especially careful.
    • Individuals with heart trouble should ask a doctor before they shovel.
    • Do not shovel after eating or while smoking
    • Take it slow. Pace yourself. Stretch out and warm up before picking up a shovel.
    • Shovel only fresh snow.
    • Push the snow as you shovel.
    • Do not pick up too much at once.
    • Lift with your legs bend, not your back. Keep your back straight.
    • Do not work to the point of exhaustion. If you run out of breath, take a break.
    • Dress warmly.

    Staying hydrated is also important when you’re shoveling. Remember to drink enough water.

    Use Care with Power Equipment

    When using power equipment, such as snow blowers, OSHA reminds workers to ensure the equipment is properly grounded to prevent electric shocks or electrocutions. Equipment should also be properly guarded and disconnected from a power source before any repairs are made.

    Because snow blowers can cause lacerations or amputations when users try to clear snow from this equipment, OSHA offers these safe operation tips:

    • Turn the snow blower off and wait for all moving parts to stop.
    • Never attempt to clear a jam by hand.
    • Use a long stick to clear wet snow or debris from the machine.
    • Keep your hands and feet away from moving parts.
    • Refuel a snow blower prior to starting the machine.
    • Do not add fuel when the equipment is running or when the engine is hot.


    Safe Roof Cleaning

    Before clearing snow from a roof, OSHA suggests employers assess the area for hazards, such as layers of ice that can make roofs even more slippery. Roofs weighted down by snow need to be inspected to determine if they are safe from collapse before workers access them.

    It’s important to also consider that snow on a roof can hide skylights, which worker can fall through if they don’t see them. Electrical hazards, such as those from overhead power lines or snow removal equipment, can also exist.

    OSHA suggests avoiding these hazards by finding other ways to remove snow from roofs so workers don’t have to climb the roofs. If they do need to be on roofs, make sure they have the right equipment, such as ladders and aerial lifts, as well as proper PPE (personal protective equipment), such as personal fall arrest systems and non-slip safety boots.

    Have you provided training for your workers so they know how to stay safe when working in very cold weather conditions? What precautions do you have them take? What else should you do to keep them safe?


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