The National Weather Service calls winter storms "deceptive killers" because most injuries and fatalities occur after the actual event. Even in Chicago, many people are fooled by the dangers winter weather poses, particularly because tornadoes, hurricanes and extreme heat cause the bulk of weather-related injuries and fatalities. Statistics for 2014 show, however, that deaths attributed to extreme cold totaled 43, while winter storms produced 41 fatalities, significantly higher than the 30-year averages of 29 and 27, respectively. By following winter safety tips in two key areas, business owners can reduce the likelihood that their employees or customers will be killed or injured on their premises.
Manage Snow Removal on Rooftops Too
Stories about commercial roofs collapsing due to the inability to hold massive amounts of snow is a staple of winter news reports, but a hidden danger comes from trying to remove the snow. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that over the last 10 years, 16 serious injuries or fatalities occurred as a result of removing snow from roofs or other elevated surfaces such as decks. Most of these mishaps occurred to individuals with little to no experience in snow removal. Ways to prevent these accidents from occurring include installation of guardrails or supplying workers with personal fall arrest systems. If you must remove rooftop snow, do so with rakes from ground level. Make sure that you have deicing in place ahead of the storm storm to safeguard employees attempting to remove roof snow from ground level. Improper handling of a snowblower is another accident waiting to happen. If possibe, leaave the job to a professional.
Prevent Electrocution, Fires and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Another hazard presented by clearing rooftop snow is overhead power lines. Workers must take precautions to ensure they avoid touching them. Using an extension cord to jumpstart a snowblower can also present a hazard. Never start a snowblower with an extension cord in puddles of excessive snow or ice melt.
Although you want to keep employees who work outdoors warm in the winter, avoid space heaters using combustible fuels inside your building as these can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide. Poisoning from this odorless and colorless gas is most frequent from November through February. Exercise caution even with electric space heaters as these can overheat. Any type of space heater can cause fires, so instead of using them, allow outdoor workers to come in more frequently during periods of extreme cold.
At Brancato Snow and Ice Management, we focus on commercial snow removal for Chicagoland businesses, but we care about all the details related to keeping our customers safe during Illinois winters. If you have a Illinois business, contact us to discuss more ideas or to set up your winter snow removal plan. Our staff is professionally trained and certified for safe snow removal and ice management in all types of conditions.