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OSHA reminds employers of the risks associated with snow removal operations

While it may seem hard to believe, we will finally start seeing the snow melt here in the Chicago metropolitan area in just a few months. In the meantime, however, we will still have to endure cold winds, frigid temperatures and, of course, the chance of significant snowfall.

In fact, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration is advising employers in winter weather states like Illinois to remember the importance of keeping workers safe during snow removal operations -- particularly those performed at significant heights.

The most serious dangers facing employees tasked with removing snow, say OSHA officials, are falls from roofs and ladders, or through skylights. Furthermore, they identified those workers whose primary job duties are not related to snow removal as being at the greatest risk of a serious or perhaps even fatal industrial work accident.

"Snow removal operations are often performed under extreme weather conditions," reads an OSHA publication. "Workers who perform these activities -- for example, building maintenance workers -- may have little experience or training on the hazards of such operations or work."

While OSHA indicates that one of the safest ways to keep employees safe during snow removal operations is to simply have them avoid going onto the roof, they also indicated that this might not be a viable option.

Accordingly, they advise employers to consider implementing the following procedures to prevent rooftop snow removal accidents:

  • Mark every hazard that could potentially be hidden by the snow
  • Provide workers with the necessary training and fall protection equipment, and take steps to ensure that they are using it when necessary
  • Implement plans outlining how to assist fallen workers who were stopped by their fall protection equipment
  • Identify and remove all potential tripping hazards

It should be noted that OSHA also advises employers to provide employees using snow blowers to clear rooftops with the necessary eyewear and to designate a safe work zone to deposit the snow from the roof.

Consider speaking with an experienced workers' compensation attorney to learn more about your options if you have suffered serious injuries in an industrial workers' accident.

Source: Risk & Insurance, "Winter weather creates particular risks for workers removing snow," Feb. 18, 2013

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