This past weekend, a powerful snowstorm swept across several Northeastern states. Weather conditions have crippled operations in at least four Northeastern states. Snowy weather has halted air travel, public transportation, and caused major power outages. Snowy weather causes major inconveniences. Construction workers required to work in snowy conditions face severe hazards. Construction workers die while removing snow from rooftops or other building structures each year. In the last ten years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has investigated 16 serious injuries or fatalities related to snow removal. OSHA has issued a hazard alert for workers involved in snow removal, http://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA-3513roof-snow-hazard.pdf.
OSHA officials maintain injuries and fatalities resulting from snow removal can be prevented. Employers should take responsibility for training and educating workers on the most effective ways to remove snow. Employee safety should always be a priority when dealing with snow conditions at construction work sites.
Construction employees working in snowy conditions deal with extreme cold, high winds, and icy surfaces. Potential injuries range from amputations, eye injuries, or frostbite. Workers are also at risk for fatal falls.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suggests using safety precautions when removing snow and working in snowy weather.
• Use snow removal methods that do not require employees to climb onto roofs (Try using drag lines or snow rakes).
• In an effort to prevent collapse, workers should consider how much weight the roof can handle.
• Use fall protection.
• Make certain workers are familiar with how to operate aerial lifts and ladders safely.
• Ensure workers on the ground are aware of potential injuries or suffocation associated with falling snow piles.
• Be informed about conditions related to snow removal such as frostbite or hypothermia.