Businesses that rely on employees to clear snow in front of their storefront or office need to use care to prevent serious injury and illness, according to OSHA.
OSHA Warning on Snow Removal
OSHA and the U.S. Department of Labor just released a warning to businesses that rely on employees to perform snow removal or other outdoor activities in severe winter conditions. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces. And that extends even to workplaces located in areas with heavy snowfall or severe winter temperatures.
Small businesses that are located in areas with regular snowfall throughout the winter often have employees go outside to clear snow or remove ice from the premises. While this activity is still allowed, if you’re not able to cover the task on your own or pay a professional snow removal service, safety does need to be a priority if you want your business to operate within OSHA’s rules.
So it’s important that small business owners and managers understand the risks and know what to look out for to make sure employees don’t expose themselves to unnecessary injury or illness due to spending extra time out in the winter elements. Aside from the obvious risks like slipping on ice, clearing snow can also lead to things like hypothermia or cold stress.
The warning signs of cold stress include confusion, slurred speech and slowness of breath. You should also look out for frostbite or excessive shivering. Additionally, it’s a good idea to make sure the area employees are going to be working in doesn’t have any serious hazards like large piles of snow or ice that could cause roof collapses or downed power lines.
Of course, it’s best to try and avoid these issues in the first place. So it could be beneficial for businesses to rotate some of those outdoor duties between employees, if possible. You could also set timers to make sure each employee is only outside for a short period of time. And of course, you’ll want to ensure that everyone has proper winter attire before sending them outside in freezing temperatures.
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