The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reminds workers involved in snow and ice removal that their employers are required to provide proper protective measures during the winter season. Our workplace injury attorneys are seeing a spike in workers’ claims as the winter months ensue, spurred by dangerous conditions. We would like to outline all the protections you as a snow removal worker are entitled to.
The workers most susceptible to injury remove snow and ice on roofs, decks and other structures, removing snow and ice to prevent overloading and cave-ins. Construction workers repairing roofs and taller buildings are also at great risk during winter, when weather is both unpredictable and unforgiving.
When a serious injury occurs in the workplace and if a claim is filed, OSHA typically opens an investigation into the incident and how and why it happened. Through these investigations OSHA found that the worst injuries, including many that cause worker deaths, occur when performing snow removal, when employees can more easily fall through skylights, from aerial lifts, off roof edges, during a roof collapse, and from ladders.
In addition to falls, workers are also susceptible to serious injury by: frostbite or hypothermia (having a solid pair of gloves and a warm hat will help most), amputations or eye injuries associated with snowblowers and other equipment, and entrapment or suffocation from falling snow.
Oftentimes, workers performing maintenance who are injured had very little experience and training regarding the dangers of such work. Under federal law, employers are required to provide workers with adequate training and safety equipment to protect them from all foreseeable hazards. The following are steps individual employees/ers can take to ensure safety this season.
Employers are required to…
- Make sure workers use aerial lifts and ladders safely at all times
- All workers know how to and always use fall protection equipment
- When possible, use all possible snow-removal methods that does not require workers going onto roofs
- Train workers on hazards, use of equipment and guards, and instruct them on how to wear protection equipment properly
- Establish a plan for rescuing a fallen employee
- Clearly mark or remove structures in the landscape or rooftop that could be hazardous
If you do have to work on a roof, workers must…
- Clear as much ice and snow as possible before a worker climbs onto a high structure – this can include de-icing materials or snow rakes
- Confirm weight of equipment and how much weight a structure’s roof can hold
- Remove snow uniformly across the roof
- Avoid making snow piles on the structure that could create imbalance
- Remember that law requires your employer to evaluate hazards and protect employees when working at heights of four to six feet from the lower level
A comprehensive list of all applicable laws and standards can be found on OSHA’s website, including reminders on how to use ladders and aerial lifts safely, electrical hazards, and additional workers’ rights. Our work accident attorneys remind workers that, if they believe their employer is not in compliance with OSHA rules, may filed a confidential complaint to the agency. If a serious injury already occurred, it is important that the employee get in contact with an attorney as soon as possible.