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Death by snow & ice

By:
  • SIMA
- Posted: October 25, 2016
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Snow and ice is risky business. In fact, it can be deadly. Following are five areas that can prove fatal:

Icicles
It happens more than you might think. The first known case of death-by-icicle happened in England in 1776, when an icicle fell and fractured a boy’s skull. Reports claim at least 15 people in the US die from falling icicles each year. Falling icicles can become weapons, particularly if falling from higher elevations on buildings, awnings, etc. Fractured skulls, crushed extremities and even decapitations have been reported. Be aware of your surroundings while you’re working to prevent unintended harm. If you’re tasked with removing these hazards, make sure you cordon off the area to ensure pedestrians don’t walk into the path of operations.

Black ice
The American Meteorological Society Glossary of Meteorology defines black ice as “a thin sheet of ice, relatively dark in appearance, [that] may form when light rain or drizzle falls on a road surface that is at a temperature below 0 °C.” Because it represents only a thin accumulation, black ice is highly transparent and is difficult to see. This makes driving, cycling or walking on affected surfaces extremely dangerous. Lack of traction opens up the possibility of slipping and falling or being involved in a car accident. Understanding the physics of ice can help professionals properly identify and treat black ice.

Carbon monoxide poisoning
According to the CDC, more than 400 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year – many of which occur in the winter. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, making detection tricky. When the storm is raging and sleep is at a premium, plow drivers may think it wise to take a catnap in their truck. Doing so, can lead to unintended carbon monoxide poisoning. Never sleep in a parked vehicle with the engine running, and never leave the vehicles running in a garage to warm up. As part of annual fleet maintenance, mechanics should check the mufflers and exhaust pipes for rust or damage. Make sure to remove any snow that could block the tail pipe. If sitting in an idling car, always keep the window partially opened, but whenever possible shut off the engine.

Hypothermia
Workers exposed to the elements during a winter snow event may put themselves at risk of hypothermia if they are not properly prepared. Permanent damage or even death can occur, which is why it is important for snow & ice management companies to educate its team members on how to identify the symptoms, to protect themselves and to offer treatment if someone on the team falls victim to the conditions. Preventive measures include:
  1. Select proper clothing for cold, wet, and windy conditions. Layer clothing to adjust to changing environmental temperatures. Wear a hat and gloves, in addition to under garments that will keep water away from the skin (polypropylene).
  2. Take short breaks in warm dry shelters to allow the body to warm up. Avoid exhaustion or fatigue because energy is needed to keep muscles warm.
  3. Work in pairs so someone is there to help in the event a colleague succumbs.
Plow/spreader injuries
Reports too numerous to mention show the dangers that can come with working around heavy equipment. Pedestrians are hit and killed by plow drivers each year. Workers, too, have been killed by getting caught in spreaders, being buried under the weight of salt piles, being backed over and more. The importance of having safety training and rigorous internal protocols, following manufacturers’ safety requirements while using equipment, and using good judgment can help to prevent your next shift from being your last one.

View all 2016 Snow Safety week articles and content here.
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