Winter Storm Safety Tips

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Winter storms can expose workers to a variety of hazards, both during the storm itself and in the recovery afterwards. According to the US’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), hazards associated with winter storms include being struck by falling objects such as icicles, tree limbs and utility poles; driving accidents on slippery roadways and carbon monoxide poisoning. Examples of other storm-related hazards:
  • Dehydration, hypothermia and frostbite;
  • Exhaustion from strenuous activity;
  • Back injuries or heart attacks while removing snow;
  • Slips, trips and falls due to slippery walkways;
  • Electrocution from downed power lines and downed objects in contact with power lines;
  • Burns from fires caused by energized line contact or equipment failure;
  • Falls during snow removal on roofs or while working in aerial lifts or on ladders;
  • Roof collapse under weight of snow (or melting snow if drains are clogged); and
  • Lacerations or amputations from unguarded or improperly operated chainsaws and power tools, and improperly attempting to clear jams in snow blowers.

GENERAL TIPS

To protect workers from such hazards, make sure they do the following:

  • Assume all power lines are energized and stay well clear of any downed or damaged power lines;
  • Make certain all powered equipment is properly guarded and disconnected from power sources before cleaning or performing maintenance;
  • Use caution around surfaces weighed down by large amounts of snow or ice;
  • Scoop small amounts of snow and use proper lifting form to avoid overexertion or injuries;
  • Clear walking surfaces of snow and ice and use salt or its equivalent where appropriate;
  • Use fall protection when appropriate;
  • Wear reflective clothing and eye, face and body protection;
  • Establish and clearly mark work zones; and
  • Use engineering controls, PPE and safe work practices to reduce the length and severity of exposure to the cold.

SNOW REMOVAL TIPS

Of course, after a storm, the priority will likely be clearing snow and ice from the workplace’s roof, walkways, driveways, parking lot, etc. to protect both workers and the general public. It’s also important to ensure entrances and exits are kept free of snow to allow free access and egress, especially in case of an emergency.

Here are some snow removal safety tips from the Occupational Health and Safety Branch of Service NL:

Roofs

The removal of snow and ice build up on a roof is necessary to prevent overloading of structures, which may cause damage and even collapse. You should ensure that workers are protected from falling when undertaking such work through the use of fall protection systems, which may include fall arrest or travel restraint systems, guardrails and barricades or other effective measures. Appropriate fall protection is required for work on all types of roofs, including flat roofs.

Ladders

Care should also be taken when working from a portable ladder to remove ice and snow or to conduct repairs. When working with ladders, workers should:

  • Always wear slip-resistant footwear
  • Ensure ladder rungs are free of oil, grease and ice
  • Always go up and down facing the ladder, holding on with both hands
  • Always hold on with one hand at all times while working from a ladder
  • Never use a metal ladder when working around electricity
  • Extend the ladder at least three feet above the roof or other support
  • Tie down the ladder as close to the support point as possible
  • Ensure the ladder has a non-slip type base
  • Never work from the top two rungs of a ladder
  • Not overreach—the body trunk should never extend past the side of a ladder
  • Make sure that the slope of the ladder, from vertical, is approximately 4:1.

Snow Plows

Mobile equipment used for snow clearing should be inspected prior to use to ensure safety devices are properly functioning. Operators should use seat belts while operating such equipment and look out for obstructions, which can be camouflaged by the snow.

Snow Blowers

Ensure that augers are completely de-energized and locked out to prevent accidental start up prior to trying to remove foreign materials caught in the equipment. Rocks, ice chunks and other objects can be picked up and thrown by snow blowers so it’s important to always know what’s beyond the chute while blowing snow.