In many parts of North America, winter brings weather conditions that require drivers, equipment operators, and helpers to take extra precautions to avoid accidents and injuries.
By Will Flower
Winter weather conditions can be challenging for drivers. Simply traveling from home to work can be treacherous in the cold when even a light rain may freeze and turn to ice on sidewalks and roadways.
Every driver and outside worker should be prepared for winter weather conditions. To help employees prepare for cold weather, supervisors and safety managers should hold safety meetings to review winter safety tips including the avoidance of cold weather-related injuries. Some of the safety topics that can be covered include:
- Training employees to recognize the hazards of slippery surfaces.
- Reviewing the importance of using three-points of contact when entering and exiting trucks and equipment.
- Equipping each vehicle with an ice scraper, snow brush and some emergency supplies.
Driving on Snow Covered or Icy Roads
When ice and snow are present on roadways, follow these safety tips to ensure your safety:
• Clean off windows and scrape windows and mirrors to make sure you can see. Use the defroster to keep windows clear of frost.
• Brush snow from your entire vehicle. Clearing snow from your car or truck will reduce blowing snow, which could interfere with another driver’s ability to see.
• Be visible.Headlights, taillights and warning lights can help make your vehicle more visible.
• Slow down. Give yourself extra time as traffic will be moving slower than normal when there is snow and icy road conditions.
• Give yourself extra room between vehicles. Allow for extra space for safe braking and stopping.
• Take extra care when driving on bridges and overpasses, which can freeze before other road surfaces.
• Brake with care. Avoid jamming on the breaks. Use a “light touch” on the brakes to have a controlled deceleration and stop. Even if your vehicle has anti-lock braking, you should brake lightly to avoid skidding.
Working in the Snow
The job of collecting waste and recyclables is tough enough. Add the challenge of picking up trash after a snowfall or in icy conditions and the job can become treacherous. The biggest potential risk is a slip or fall that can result in a strain or sprain. Safety precautions that can be taken to reduce the risk of injury when working in snow and ice conditions include:
• Use proper PPE. PPE such as highly reflective safety vests will make drivers and helpers more visible in storm conditions.
• Wear proper footwear. Wear boots with good grip that provide the support and traction you need to get the job done safely.
• Dress warm. Use several layers so you can remove a layer as needed. Wear a hat to maintain body heat.
• Slow Down. Walk carefully and cautiously. Take your time and look around for slippery spots on icy driveways, roadways and sidewalks. Plant your feet securely on each step and, when possible, use handrails for added support.
• Anticipate ice. What appears to be wet asphalt or concrete may actually be black ice, especially in the morning.
• Enter buildings with caution. When entering a building be careful and anticipate wet and slippery surfaces. When possible, place mats near doorways to provide extra traction.
• Do not put your hands in your pockets. Use hands and arms to maintain balance.
• Do not carry extra heavy loads, such as multiple garbage cans, which could cause you to lose your balance.
• Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is just as big an issue in cold winter months as it is in the summer.
Shoveling snow around a truck, waste container or roll-off box can be dangerous. Snow shoveling and heavy lifting can cause strains and sprains to the back, shoulders and wrists. Follow a few simple rules to be safe while shoveling snow:
- Stretch and warm up your muscles and joints before shoveling.
- Use a good shovel that is the right size. A shovel that is too short or too long may cause over extension.
- Push snow instead of lifting. If you must lift a loaded shovel, use your legs. Consider taking smaller scoops to avoid heavy lifting.
- Take breaks to avoid overexertion.
- Be especially cautious if you have a heart or respiratory condition that could be triggered by physical exertion.
The winter months include some of the most dangerous weather conditions. Workers in the solid waste and recycling industry must take extra precautions and care when working in snowy and icy conditions. Always be alert and never assume that the people driving around you have control of their vehicles. Be prepared, stay warm and stay safe. | WA
Will Flower is the Senior Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs at Winters Bros. Waste Systems (Long Island, NY). Will has 38 years of experience in the area of solid waste management and environmental protection. He has worked in the Director’s Office of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and held operational and executive leadership positions at Waste Management, Inc., and Republic Services. Inc. Prior to his current position, he served as the president of a large recycling center on Long Island.
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