Hazards of Snow Cleanup
In light of recent snow storms, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding workers, employers and the general public in New England of the hazards associated with snow removal and recovery work.
Cleaning up after a storm encompasses a variety of tasks, each of which can carry risks if performed incorrectly or without proper safeguards, says OSHA. The agency wants people to know what those risks are and what steps they can take to protect themselves.
- Electric shock from contact with downed power lines or the use of 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
Ways to address these hazards:
- Assuming all power lines are energized, keep a safe distance, and coordinate with utility companies.
- Make certain that all electrically powered equipment is grounded.
- Provide and ensure the use of effective fall protection.
- Properly use and maintain 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
Information on fall hazards and safeguards associated with snow removal is available from OSHA.
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