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Beware -- snow removal could be a deadly procedure

Removing snow from roofs is a dangerous task that can lead to severe injuries or even fatalities. It is not only the snow that poses risks but also the structure. Older buildings might have structural deterioration that could compromise the stability of the roof when it carries the weight of snow. When you add to that the weight of a snow-removal crew, it might cause a devastating collapse.

If you are part of a crew that removes snow from roofs in Pennsylvania, you may benefit from gaining knowledge about the hazards inherent to snow removal along with the safety precautions you can take to avoid workplace injuries. Bear in mind that you will likely perform these duties in extreme conditions that might include high winds, low temperatures, icy surfaces and more.

Potential injuries

You might have to clear snow from residential and commercial buildings, and you may have to navigate your way on snow-covered flat or pitched roofs. Taking note of what could happen to you might make you take extra care to avoid the following injuries:

  • Falls -- The most significant cause of injuries and fatalities during snow removal operations is falling from roofs, through skylights and more.
  • Equipment injuries -- Equipment such as snow blowers can cause amputations, eye injuries and other damage.
  • Suffocation -- Snow removed in large piles can cause entrapment and suffocation.
  • Electrocution -- Damaged extension cords and working close to overhead power lines can cause electric shocks that could be deadly.
  • Hypothermia -- Extended periods in extremely icy conditions can cause hypothermia or frostbite.
  • Overexertion -- Musculoskeletal injuries such as sprains, strains or torn muscles can follow overexertion.

Planning ahead

Proper planning might prepare you for potential hazards. Anticipating what could go wrong and considering the following could help with planning the necessary precautions:

  • Access -- Is it really necessary to climb onto the roof, or can the snow be removed from ground level?
  • Hidden hazards -- Are there any hidden hazards under the snow? These could include skylights, vents, roof drains and more.
  • Plan of action -- How can the snow be removed without causing unbalanced snow loads?
  • Load limits -- Is the structure strong enough to carry the weight of the snow, the work crew and the equipment they will use?
  • Required equipment -- What equipment must go onto the roof with the workers? This includes tools for snow removal and personal protective equipment for workers -- clothing, footwear and fall protection.
  • Hoisting equipment -- What is the safest method to get tools and equipment hoisted onto the roof?
  • Training -- Are you and your co-workers properly trained for the task of snow removal?
  • Ground level protection -- Are there safety protocols in place to protect ground level workers from the snow piles coming off the roof?

Whenever you evaluate the task of snow removal, you might want to consider the possibility of doing it from the ground rather than to access the roof. However, if you have to work in such dangerous conditions and you suffer an occupational injury, you might find comfort knowing that the Pennsylvania workers' compensation insurance system will have your back. You could even utilize the services of an experienced workers' compensation attorney to handle the administrative and legal processes of filing benefits claims on your behalf.

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