Protect workers during winter storms

Utilities, law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical response, military, highway, and the sanitation industry may require outdoor work during a snow storm. Help reduce injuries by training workers about the risks of working in storms, and the practices and equipment that could keep them safe.

Employees that must go out into a winter storm could be faced with a variety of dangers. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), some of the risks associated with working in winter storms include:

•    Electrocution caused by downed power lines
•    Falls from heights, or roof collapses
•    Being struck or crushed by falling objects
•    Motor vehicle accidents
•    Carbon monoxide poisoning
•    Hypothermia and frostbite
•    Dehydration
•    Exhaustion
•    Back injuries and heart attacks during strenuous tasks like snow removal
•    Burns from fires caused by equipment failures or damaged power lines 
•    Cuts or amputations when chain saws, power tools, and snow blowers are improperly operated, guarded, or unjammed  

The following safety guidelines are provided by OSHA to help protect employees working outside during a winter storm:

•    Wear well-insulated boots with heavy rubber treads to avoids dangerous slips and falls on icy walkways. Walk slowly and take short steps 
•    Wear bright or reflective clothing like traffic safety vests so motorists can see workers in snowy weather 
•    Be cautious when working in high places such as roofs or skylights. Employers can help reduce injuries during winter storms by providing fall protection and properly maintaining ladders     
•    Watch for falling objects such as icicles, tree limbs, and utility poles 
•    Do not allow excessive snow to accumulate on roofs 
•    Assume all downed power lines are energized and keep a safe distance to avoid electrocution, shocks, and burns 
•    Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated 
•    When using chainsaws or chippers to clear downed trees, use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, chaps, foot protectionsafety glasses, fall protection, hearing protection, and head protection 
•    Learn proper snow removal techniques to avoid injuries 
•    Snow is reflective and can sometimes make it difficult for workers to see. Wear sunglasses to improve vision in bright conditions 
•    Be aware of situations that could cause carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Generators and other fuel-burning equipment and tools create exhaust that contains CO, so it is important that they are only used where there is adequate ventilation. Because motor vehicles produce CO, make sure exhaust pipes are not blocked by snow drifts when spending extended time in a parked, running car or truck for warmth 

Help keep employees safe and healthy by providing the proper knowledge and equipment needed during winter storms.

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