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Safety tips for outdoor winter workers

During the winter, outdoor workers in North Carolina are liable to develop hypothermia, frostbite and other conditions if they are not properly protected. They may also slip on icy and snowy surfaces, especially when removing snow off roofs, and they could get in accidents when driving. OSHA has provided some safety tips for employers on its Winter Weather resource site.

It all starts with providing hazard training. New employees who come from less severe winter climates will need special attention. Employers must also provide the right personal protective equipment, including insulated gloves and coats. Though there are no specific OSHA guidelines on rooftop snow removal, it is regulated by OSHA's guidelines on fall protection systems, ladders and aerial lifts.

Regarding rooftop snow removal, OSHA encourages the use of snow rakes and drag lines as well as the application of de-icing materials from a ladder. These do not require workers to be on the roof where the risk of losing one's balance is high.

Employers should clearly mark work zones with barrels, cones, signs and barriers when employees are driving work vehicles. Vehicles should be made ready beforehand for cold conditions; for example, they should be fitted with winter windshield wipers. Snow blowers in particular are prone to jamming, but workers should clear snow and debris from it only once it is turned off.

To neglect safe procedures will only raise the risk for an accident. Employees who injure themselves may be able to file a claim under workers' compensation law, especially because they are not required to prove that the employer was, if at all, negligent. Worker negligence can lead to a claim being denied, however, which is why having legal representation may be beneficial. A lawyer might also assist victims who wish to settle with a "clincher agreement."

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