By Cheryl Higley
Snow and ice management professionals focus clearly on ensuring safe sites for their clients, but companies mustn’t neglect the safety of their employees working in tough conditions. Following are tips from W.L. French Excavating Corporation’s president and owner Bill French Jr. and Safety Director Tim Hunt to help keep your team safe:
1. Each site needs a thorough walkthrough to identify potential hazards, such as hydrants, exposed pipes (electrical or other), curbs that could cause a tripping hazard, and to access the site layout. “If there's a dropoff on one side we need to identify that so our workers know it’s there mid-season because it may not be evident once the snow has piled up,” Hunt says.
2. Require workers to wear high visibility clothing with reflective striping. Headlights or site lighting will reflect off the striping, increasing workers’ visibility to operators and the general public.
3. Implement an equipment maintenance to reduce accidents and downtime. WLF’s program includes preseason inspections; preventive maintenance schedules; on-call mechanics during all storms; communication policies between staff and the maintenance supervisor to reduce accidents due to equipment failure; and postseason evaluation / inventory assessment. The company also assigns equipment to specific operators. “This way the employee ‘knows’ their equipment and can recognize when something is wrong,” French says.
4. Kickoff meetings are held to discuss known hazards and implement policies and plans to avoid incidents. All employees are OSHA 10 trained, attend preseason safety meetings and hold a current hoisting license (if operating equipment).
5. Lack of sleep is a major safety hazard for snow and ice professionals. Staff in shifts and make sleep arrangements if you expect a storm to last several days. “Sleep deprivation is dangerous, runs the risk of an incident or accident occurring and is overall detrimental for one’s health,” Hunt says.
6. As a condition of employment, WLF employees agree to be available, rested and free of alcohol use prior to the approaching storm. “This is especially important during holiday and sports seasons that take place over the weekend,” French says. “We stress and constantly emphasis this part of our staff agreement. WLF maintains a zero tolerance for drug and alcohol.”
In addition to establishing protocols and safety regulations, Hunt says he and ownership are present throughout all snow events. “We visit each site to check on crews, make sure they are not overtired, have had a chance to eat, are dressed properly and so forth,” Hunt says. “Without safe employees, no contract can be successful.”