While spring might be just around the corner, it’s still early to put away the snow shovel and sidewalk salt. A recent spate of snowstorms in the northeastern United States prompted OSHA to remind workers, employers and the general public 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," said Robert Kulick, OSHA's regional administrator in New York. "We want people to know what those risks are and what steps they can take to protect themselves against these hazards."
Common hazards can include:
- 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.
Means of addressing these hazards can include:
- Assuming all power lines are energized, keeping your distance and coordinating with the utility.
- Making certain that all electrically powered equipment is grounded.
- Providing and ensuring the use of effective fall protection.
- Properly using and maintaining ladders.
- Using caution around surfaces weighted down by large amounts of snow.
- Making certain all powered equipment is properly guarded and disconnected from power sources before cleaning or performing maintenance.
- Using and wearing eye, face and body protection.
- Clearing walking surfaces of snow and ice and using salt or equivalent where appropriate.
- Establishing and clearly marking work zones.
- Wearing reflective clothing.
- Using engineering controls, personal protective equipment and safe work practices to reduce the length and severity of exposure to the cold.
More information on hazards and safeguards associated with cleanup and recovery activities after a storm or other major weather event is available online in English and Spanish at http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/hurricaneRecovery.html.