Winter is here again, and soon children will be praying for snow days and dreaming of a white Christmas. But while a shower of snowflakes may mean a day of fun for kids, it’s a steady day’s work for you and your colleagues. However, the day can turn deadly if you’re not careful.
Snow removal can be a dangerous occupation. Whether it’s a part of your daily duties or your whole job description, moving and managing snow can cause serious injuries. Every year, workers in New Jersey suffer back injuries, traumatic brain injury and other accidents as a result of:
- Shoveling. Some workers still prefer to remove snow the old-fashioned way: with shovels and elbow grease. Not only are workers placed at risk from repetitive motion, they can suffer back injuries, exhaustion, and even heart attacks due to the strenuous activity of lifting and scooping snow. Employers should make sure employees are aware of the dangers of manual snow removal, including training employees to lift smaller loads, push snow into a bank (instead of lifting it), and performing a proper lifting technique (lifting with the legs and refraining from twisting the body).
- Snow blowers. Many employers will invest in snow blowers for more efficient removal and to limit workers’ exposure to the cold. However, these machines carry dangers of their own. Electric snow blowers must be properly grounded to prevent shocks or electrocution, and machines whose safeguards have been disabled can slice or even amputate a worker’s hand or foot.
- Heights. Many workers are asked to remove snow from dangerous or high places, such as roofs, beams, vehicles, heavy equipment, or other structures. Working at heights carries inherent dangers, but during the winter, snowy roofs and other surfaces may be hiding layers of ice or debris beneath them. Structures may be weakened by heavy layers of snow, making them unsafe to walk on. Tree branches and power lines hanging above workers add an additional danger, as either could fall and seriously injure or kill a worker.
- Cold stress. In addition to the increased risk of bodily injury, snow removal workers are also more likely to suffer cold exposure, such as frostbite, dehydration, and hypothermia. Workers should be encouraged to take frequent breaks to warm up in shelters or buildings in order to limit their exposure to freezing temperatures.
What To Do If You Are Injured Performing Snow Removal Work
The first thing you should do if you are injured in a winter work accident is to report the incident to your employer. Your injury costs and lost time from work should be covered by workers’ compensation, allowing you to get proper treatment while you heal.
If your employer played a significant role in your injury, you may want to consult an attorney to find out if you could be owed more than workers’ compensation. If you were not given proper tools, protective equipment, or training to perform your job safely, your employer could be held liable for negligence. Find out if you may be able to pursue a case in our book, What the Injured Worker Needs to Know: Your Workers' Comp Guide, or click the contact link on this page to tell us your story.