12 Winter storm-related hazards & a tool kit for preventing problems

February 1st, 2011 by Julie Ferguson

This storm is a whopper of potentially historic proportion, with warnings and advisories covering a 2,000+ mile swathe from New Mexico and the Southern Plains to the upper Mid-Atlantic and New England. Four states – Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Illinois – have already declared a state of emergency. More than one million square miles of the country are expected to be affected. And even if you live in a balmy state that is not directly affected, expect travel and business disruptions to spill over. (Or maybe the correct term is “snowball?”)
If you get confused about the difference, here’s a handy guide to how the National Weather Service defines Storm Warnings, Watches and Advisories and here is further clarification for winter weather terminology.
According to National Weather Service, about 70% of the injuries during winter storms result from vehicle accidents, and about 25% of injuries result from being caught out in the storm. Emergency workers who are out and about during the storm and in storm cleanup face additional risks.
Here are some of the most common winter workplace injuries and a toolkit of resources for prevention.
1. Driving accidents on slippery roadways or due to obstructed vision; Being struck by vehicles while working in roadways or while pulled over in roadways
CCOHS: Winter Driving Tips
OSHA: Safe Winter Driving
Mass. DOT: Safe Winter Driving Tips
2. Slips and falls on snowy or ice-covered outdoor walkways and wet indoor floors from snow or ice being carried in.
Winterize your workplace
7 Tips for Winter Slip and Fall Prevention
3. Hypothermia and frostbite due to cold weather exposure
CDC winter weather exposure
NIOSH: Cold Stress
Extreme cold prevention
In case you are stranded while driving in winter
4. Being struck by falling objects such as icicles, tree limbs, and utility poles
Natural disaster response: safety for cleanup workers
5. Falls from heights (roofs, ladders, lifts) while removing snow
OSHA Fall Protection
Safe snow removal
Safe work practices on snow covered roofs
6. Electrocution and burns from downed power lines, downed objects in contact with power lines, or ungrounded electrical equipment.
OSHA: Working Safely Among Downed Power Lines
OSHA Overhead Power Lines
Powerline Safety
NIOSH: Electrical safety
Electrical burns: first aid
7. Lacerations and amputations from unguarded or improperly operated snow blowers, chain saws and power tools
Practice snowblower safety
Mind the machinery while you work
8. Injuries from roof collapse under weight of snow
Preventing roof collapse in winter
Some roofs more prone to collapse
9. Exhaustion from working extended shifts
OSHA: Extended/unusual work shifts
10. Dehydration
Preventing dehydration in winter
11. Back injuries or heart attack while shoveling or removing snow
Snow shoveling is risky
Snow shoveling and snow removal safety
12. Carbon monoxide poisoning from generators used in improperly ventilated areas or from idling vehicles
Occupational Safety and Health Guideline for Carbon Monoxide

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