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Keeping outdoor workers safe during winter

OSHA has listed some of the top hazards of winter outdoor work at its Winter Weather resource site. Employers in West Palm Beach, especially those whose employees might drive a snow blower or remove snow off roofs, will want to know what some of the organization's safety tips are. The first step is to follow OSHA's guidelines regarding personal protective equipment, hazard training and fall protection.

PPE should include things like insulated gloves, steel-toed boots and coats. Hazard training should cover specific tasks as well as orient any employees who come from areas with less severe winters. Guidelines for fall protection systems, ladders and aerial lifts must be followed. Ideally, workers who engage in roof snow removal should not have to go on the roof; they could instead apply de-icing materials from a ladder or use snow rakes and drag lines.

Employers should have a qualified employee inspect all vehicle systems, focusing on the brakes, exhaust, tires, oil and visibility systems. Vehicles should have winter windshield wipers installed. When snow blowers get jammed, workers should turn them off first and then use a long stick to clear out the snow and debris.

If workers need to remove trees or tree limbs in the snow, they should use powered equipment that's designed for wet conditions. Again, PPE is essential, especially eye, ear and head protection.

Those who are injured on the job may be eligible for workers' compensation regardless of who, if anyone, was at fault. Victims may also opt for a lump-sum settlement instead; a lawyer may explain what the pros and cons are. Workers' comp benefits might cover medical expenses and a percentage of lost wages, but victims can only file for them when they have reached maximum medical improvement.

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