Minnesota tops the list for most brutal winters, but that does not mean the work stops. If you have an outdoor job in or near Saint Paul, your employer must comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s safety standards to protect you from known hazards, whether you work in construction, transportation or a warehouse. Do you know your rights to a safe work environment?
Your best chance of staying safe through winter would be to attend all safety training sessions that deal with potential cold weather-related hazards and how to mitigate them. Regardless of whether your job involves ice and snow removal from rooftops, decks or other structures, driving in dangerous conditions or clearing away downed trees, cold stress remains a hazard.
The importance of safety training
Your employer might assume that the basic safety standards related to winter weather hazards are common knowledge. However, if you are new to the Saint Paul area and unfamiliar with working where ice and snow accumulation occurs, you will need proper safety training to deal with known hazards like driving on snow-covered roads, working at heights and snow removal. If you have worked in Minnesota for years, refreshing safety training could prevent complacency.
Snow removal hazards
Before you get involved in snow removal, it would be a good idea to learn how to deal with the following risks:
- Extreme conditions that you would likely face during snow removal include cold conditions — exacerbated by high winds and slippery, icy surfaces.
- To avoid the hazards of roof work, your employer might have you applying de-icing materials from a ladder or a lift truck, which does not remove the fall risk.
- Beware of losing your balance if you have to use draglines or snow rakes while standing on a ladder — it is much less risky to do this from the ground.
Snow blower hazards
The following significant snow blower injuries result from attempts to clear jams without turning off the blower:
- Using your hands to clear a jammed snow blower is risky, even if you turn the power off, because accidental activation can have catastrophic consequences.
- You could suffer broken bones, lacerations and even amputation injuries.
- The best practice is to turn the snow blower off and wait for all movement to cease before attempting to clear the jam.
- Even then, it is safer not to use your hands, but rather a long stick to clear debris or snow from the snow blower.
Do not drive construction or commercial vehicles on snow-covered roads without the necessary training. When you do, take note of the following:
- For your safety, make sure an adequately trained person checks the vehicle to ensure it is in perfect order to work in ice or snow.
- That person should check the brakes, electrical system, cooling system, exhaust and engine systems, visibility systems along with the oil and tires.
- Make sure you know what to do if your vehicle breaks down, leaving you stranded. It is crucial to know how to use the heating system safely without risking carbon monoxide poisoning.
Receiving adequate safety training along with the necessary personal protective equipment can go a long way to keep you out of the hospital. However, workplace accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. If you fall victim to an on-the-job injury, you might find comfort in knowing that the assistance of an experienced Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney is available. Legal counsel can explain your rights and navigate the benefits claims process on your behalf. Compensation typically covers medical bills and a portion of lost wages.