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Snow hazards during snow removal can injure workers

An earlier post discussed some of the avalanche dangers that ski resort workers may face this winter. But snow can bring other types of hazards and safety concerns for workers in a different industry: snow removal. Workers do more than remove the snow from streets and alleys; many workers remove snow from buildings and rooftops as well.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has provided a number of different resources on their site to help workers and employees understand some of the dangers associated with snow removal and tips on how to reduce the risk of injury or even death. But are snow removal accidents something to be concerned about?

According to OSHA, there have been a number of accidents and deaths that resulted during the snow removal process. Without protective measures, workers can slip or fall off of roofs. In some instances, a skylight may post an even greater problem for a worker.

Some of the causes of injuries snowblower accidents, lift collapses, suffocation under snow piles, electrocution and even hypothermia. But one of the more common accidents is ladder falls. In one accident, a worker had been removing snow off of a deck when he fell into an elevator shaft. The shaft had been covered with tarp. In another incident, a worker was removing snow from a roof. The ladder he was standing on slid on the ground causing the worker to fall and suffer a fatal head injury.

According to OSHA, many accidents due to snow removal could be prevented if workers have access to fall protection equipment. In addition employers should be making sure that roofs and structures can actually handle the additional weight of a worker after a heavy snow fall.

To see what other safety practices and precautions employers should be taking for their employees, visit the OSHA "Snow Hazard Alert" page.

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