Snow Removal for Worker Safety and OSHA Compliance

Actio Corporation and OSHA wish to remind everyone of a few finer points for Worker Safety in a time of wild weather and wintry mixes:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the the U.S. Department of Labor wants to alert workers, employers and the general public of hazards associated with snow removal and recovery work.  A Worker Safety refresher follows.

Winter Work: Mind the Gear
The first hazard to be aware of is simply the limitations of the clothing worn in cold weather:

Workers are not their usual agile selves while wearing 7 layers of Smartwool and Carhartt dungarees.  Movements must be slow, considered and deliberate.  Let things happen in a measured pace.

As your mother used to say: bend at the knees when shoveling, don't twist but turn your feet to empty the shovel.

Make sure you have and have understood the material safety data sheets for any de-icing sprays and other chemical solutions for winter safety.  De-icing is great but we needn't to ingest a load of methanol over it by letting the deicer come into contact with skin, nose, or in-breath.

Snowstorm worker safety

Other means of addressing snowstorm-related hazards noted by OSHA include:
  • Assume all power lines are energized, keeping a distance and coordinating with utility companies
  • Make certain that all electrically powered equipment is grounded
  • Provide and ensuring the use of effective fall protection
  • Properly use and maintaining ladders
  • Use caution around surfaces weighed down by large amounts of snow
  • Make certain all powered equipment is properly guarded and disconnected from power sources before cleaning or performing maintenance
  • Use and wear eye, face and body protection
  • Clear walking surfaces of snow and ice, and use salt or its equivalent where appropriate
  • Establish and clearly mark work zones
  • Wear reflective clothing
  • Use engineering controls, personal protective equipment, and safe work practices to reduce the length and severity of exposure to the cold
"Cleaning up after a storm encompasses a variety of tasks, each of which can carry risks if performed incorrectly or without proper safeguards," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's regional administrator in Boston. "We want people to know what those risks are and what steps they can take to protect themselves against these hazards."

Snowstorm worker safety pitfalls

OSHA reminds us that common pitfalls of cleaning up after a snowstorm include:
  • Electric shock from downed power lines
  • Electric shock from ungrounded electrical equipment
  • Falls from snow removal on roofs, or while working in aerial lifts or on ladders
  • Being struck or crushed by trees, branches or structures that collapse under the weight of accumulated snow
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning from gasoline-powered generators in inadequately ventilated areas or idling vehicles
  • Lacerations or amputations from unguarded or improperly operated chain saws and power tools, and improperly attempting to clear jams in snow blowers.
  • Slips or falls on icy or snow-covered walking surfaces
  • Being struck by motor vehicles while working in roadways
  • Hypothermia or frostbite from exposure to cold temperatures
Information on hazards and safeguards associated with cleanup and recovery activities after a storm or other major weather events is available online in English and Spanish at http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/hurricaneRecovery.html.