Clearing snow and ice is a valuable and necessary winter job that keeps citizens mobile and safe, no matter how deep it gets. But there are natural hazards that come with snow removal, whether using snow removal equipment, a snow removal vehicle, or a commercial snow blower.
Giving potential hazards adequate attention goes a long way toward keeping snow removal crews and equipment, the public, and property safe.
Creating a checklist of items to do before setting out on a snow removal route helps achieve maximum safety during a winter weather event. Here are a few things to consider as you create your preparation plan.
Snow removal equipment safety begins with proper operator preparation. With adequate training, employees can learn the hazards they might encounter and how to avoid them. OSHA offers training at a reasonable cost, or you can design your own. The agency provides plenty of information online, and the Snow and Ice Management Association also offers training and certification.
Schedule yearly refresher training on the equipment the crews will use. Each piece of snow removal equipment has particular characteristics. Knowing these quirks and how aspecific machine manages snow and ice goes a long way toward avoiding dangerous situations.
Hands-on training is critical to create muscle memory. It helps the operator know what actions to take with a particular device in specific situations.
It is imperative to train employees to keep body parts away from clogged machinery, turn off equipment, and use a stick or other tool instead of a hand or foot.
Prepare and Check Equipment Ahead of Time
Make sure snow removal equipment is in top shape before snow season begins. When equipment breaks down during a storm, it can put the crew and the public in danger – especially if the breakdown happens at night.
Implement a seasonal equipment maintenance schedule to ensure that preventive care is up to date and everything is operational. Attach plows and blowers to trucks, and test them for proper operation. If not attached, prop up attachable equipment for quick coupling.
Before a trip, make a daily inspection of all equipment. First, do a visual walk-around. Does everything look right? Then check the basics – fuel, tires, brakes, windshield wipers, lights, etc. Make sure communications are in order, and the heater/defroster works.
Evaluate Crew Readiness
Operator error is a manageable risk factor that can endanger snow removal crews. During major storms, it is easy for drivers to extend themselves physically during an emergency. Ensure you have enough personnel to handle a greater workload during the heaviest times.
Check operators' physical well-being. Are they well rested, in reasonably good health, and unimpaired by alcohol or medicine when they start their shift?Equipment familiarity is critical for operators before setting out on a route. Is each crew member checked out on equipment and up to date on safety training?
Provide Personal Protective Equipment
While most snow removal equipment has an enclosed cab with heat, it is essential to fit crews out with protective gear for breakdowns or times they may need to be outside the vehicle. Insulated gloves, layered clothing, and appropriate footwear are the essentials.
Hands and feet register the cold most easily, but the entire body can be affected. Three conditions pose the most significant risk. Hypothermia is when the entire body loses heat faster than it can replace it. Frostbite is when tissues and skin freeze, and hands and feet are particularly vulnerable. Trench Foot is when foot skin and tissue freeze after exposure to moisture and cold temperatures.
Carry an Emergency Kit
No matter how prepared the equipment and operators are, things happen. Equipment fails, accidents take place, and crews experience unusual situations. When this happens, a well-equipped emergency kit is useful and,in some cases, lifesaving.
Operators may be out for extended periods. Do they have food, water, and any medications they might need? A few tools and a set of jumper cables can make a stall a minor disturbance. Is there an ice scraper and snow brush on board? A flashlight? A red flag, reflectors, and flares? A shovel and sand for traction?
Having a few items in case of an emergency goes a long way toward the safety of the crew and motorists attempting to navigate icy or snowy streets.
Drive Routes Under Good Weather Conditions
Before snow season begins, snow removal operators should drive their routes under good conditions. They can note characteristics such as low-hanging limbs, canopied vegetation, low utility lines, and severe shoulder drop-offs that could create a hazard with less visibility during winter storm events. They may be able to eliminate specific threats, but others may need to be located and avoided.
Choosing the Best Equipment
Hardline Equipment knows how vital snow removal equipment is for community safety, so we researched carefully before carrying Zaugg snow removal equipment. Zaugg'sheadquarters is in the Swiss Alps, so they have long experience building reliable, versatile snow management equipment. We're confident that they manufacture the best snow removal equipment on the market.
Contact Hardline online or call 720-744-3526 to discuss your questions and challenges. We're located in Commerce City, Colorado, just north of Denver, convenient to the 43 ski resorts in Colorado. We'll be happy to talk with you.