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OSHA Warns New York Employers and Workers of Hazards of Snow Cleanup

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January 2, 2011

As New York continues to recover from last week’s snowstorm and in preparation for more winter storms, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warns of potential dangers of snow cleanup and urges proper worker safeguards.

“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 in an OSHA news release. "We want people to know what those risks are and what steps they can take to protect themselves against these hazards."

OSHA wants workers, employers and the public in New York to be aware of the following hazards associated with snow removal and recovery work:

  • 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.

Ways to prevent these on the job hazards include:

  • Assuming all power lines are energized, keeping a distance and coordinating with utility companies.
  • 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 weighed 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 its 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.

The New York Times reported today that continuing snow removal operations have hampered trash removal in New York City. A sanitation department representative told the newspaper that 50% of normal trash collection trucks would resume operation, but 50% of the trucks would still be used for snow removal operations.

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  1. Mike Bryant says:
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    Great information, the roof one is very important here in Minnesota.