OSHA offers tips to guard against snow-removal hazards
Snow removal can be deadly without proper safeguards, so the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is urging workers and employers to be aware of and prepare for the potential hazards involved in the winter task.
Removing snow from rooftops or other elevated surfaces can be particularly perilous. Over the past decade, OSHA has investigated 16 serious injuries or fatalities involving such work — all of which could have been prevented, according to the agency.
To avoid falls, OSHA recommends using snow rakes or drag lines from the ground whenever possible to clear rooftops. Remove small amounts of snow at a time from a roof to avoid strain or being hit or buried by falling snow. Wear eye and head protection, especially when removing ice.
Evaluate the snow load on a roof and the additional weight of required workers and equipment before anyone climbs onto the roof to clear it. Remove snow uniformly across the roof, and avoid making snow piles, so as not to create an unbalanced load on the roof.
Other hazards involved in snow removal include being struck by a vehicle; eye injuries or amputations associated with use of snowblowers or other mechanized equipment; entrapment and suffocation under falling snow; electrocution from contacting power lines or damaged extension cords; musculoskeletal injuries from overexertion; frostbite or hypothermia from cold and windy conditions.
OSHA advises keeping yourself and your equipment at least 10 feet away from an energized power line; using a smaller shovel or taking up smaller scoops of snow if the snow is wet and heavy; lifting with your legs and keeping your back straight; taking frequent breaks and drinking fluids that don’t include caffeine or alcohol; wearing footwear that has good traction and insulation; taking short steps and walking at a slower pace.
More information is available at osha.gov/SLTC.