With record snowfalls in Pennsylvania and Western New York, a recent blizzard in New England, and frigid temperatures in the Northeast and Midwest, OSHA urges all those involved in snow removal and cleanup to take precautions and focus on safety.
Workers performing snow removal operations may be exposed to serious hazards, including slips and falls while walking on snow and ice, and falls from roofs and roof edges, through skylights, or from aerial ladders and lifts.
Workers may also be injured by a roof collapse. Other storm recovery work hazards include being struck by vehicles, carbon monoxide, hypothermia, and being injured by powered equipment.
Those working outdoors may also be at risk of cold stress, including first responders who are on duty for long periods of time.
Anyone working outside for prolonged periods may experience cold stress with mild symptoms, such as shivering while remaining alert. Moderate to severe symptoms include shivering stops, confusion, slurred speech, heart rate/breathing slowness, and loss of consciousness.
When the body is unable to warm itself, serious cold-related injuries such as frostbite may occur.
"Of course, it's best to try and avoid these issues in the first place," says Annie Pilon, senior staff writer for Small Business Trends, who offers advice for business owners who may rely on employees to handle snow removal at their workplaces.
"It could be beneficial for businesses to rotate some of those outdoor duties [among] employees if possible," she suggests. "You could also set timers to make sure each employee is outside only for a short period of time.
"And, of course, you'll want to ensure that everyone has proper winter attire before sending them outside in freezing temperatures."