OSHA Hazard Alert Warns of Dangers of Removing Snow from Roofs

Every year, workers are killed or seriously injured while removing snow or ice from rooftops and other elevated building structures, according to a Hazard Alert from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.snow on roof

Considering New England’s brutal winters, dangers associated with snow and ice removal are very real for workers and others living in the greater Boston area. Luckily, many injuries and fatalities can be prevented, the agency said.

If you’ve been injured removing snow or ice from a roof or other elevated structure while working, it’s imperative that you hire experienced and aggressive legal representation. A seasoned OSHA workers’ compensation attorney in Boston will fight for you and make sure you receive full compensation for your injuries, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Here’s a quick look at OSHA’s Hazard Alert:

Why is snow removed from roofs and other elevated surfaces?

• To prevent overloading and collapse.
• For construction or repair of decking or roofs.

How do workers remove snow from roofs?

• Often, workers will climb onto the roofs or other structures and use shovels, snow rakes, snow blowers or ladders to remove the snow.
• Snow removal can be performed from the ground using snow rakes.
• Aerial lifts can be used to access roofs and apply de-icing materials.

Why can snow removal be so dangerous?

• Workers performing snow removal must deal with extreme weather conditions such as the bitter cold, high winds and icy surfaces.
• Workers might have little experience or training on the dangers of such work.

What are the main hazards of snow removal from roofs?

• Falls off roof edges, through skylights or from ladders and aerial lifts. Falls are the number one cause of worker fatalities and injuries during rooftop snow removal.
• Roof collapses.
• Accidents caused by snowblowers and other mechanical equipment.
• Collapses or tip-overs when using aerial lifts.
• Entrapment and suffocation under falling snow drifts or snow piles.
• Shock/electrocution hazards from power lines or damaged extension cords.
• Frostbite or hypothermia from cold weather.
• Musculoskeletal injuries from overexertion.

Employers have a duty to protect workers from known hazards in the workplace, including dangers associated with snow removal from roofs. If you’ve been injured removing snow from a roof or other surface, contact a personal injury attorney to protect your rights.

It’s important that you meet with a personal injury lawyer in Boston as soon as possible. These cases are time-sensitive, and an attorney will ensure that you abide by all applicable deadlines.

How can employers protect their workers?

• Use snow removal methods that don’t involve workers going on roofs whenever possible. For example, ladders to apply de-icing materials and snow rakes or drag lines from the ground.
• Evaluate loads exerted on a roof or structure, including total weight of snow, workers and equipment used, and compare to the load limit of the roof.
• Require workers to use fall protection equipment.
• Make sure workers use ladders and aerial lifts safely.
• Instruct workers to remove snow uniformly and avoid making snow piles on the roof.
• Train workers on fall hazards and the proper use of fall protection equipment.
• Develop a plan for rescuing a worker caught by a fall protection system.
• Remove or clearly mark rooftop or landscape features that could become trip hazards.
• Bar workers from using a snow rake or shovel while on a ladder.

How can employers protect people on the ground during snow removal?

• Mark a safe work zone where snow is to be removed.
• Require workers to wear eye and head protection, especially when removing ice.
• Instruct workers to remove small amounts of snow at a time when using snow rakes.

What are some best practices for using mechanical equipment on roofs?

• Provide proper training for use of mechanical equipment.
• Provide workers with eye protection and make sure they wear it.
• Raise materials to the roof using equipment lifts, winches, pull ropes or related equipment.
• Do not use powered equipment near the edge of any roof. (Certain snowblower manufacturers recommend maintaining a distance of 15 feet from the roof edge.)
• Operate snow removal equipment at reduced speeds.
• Keep hands out of the collection or discharge openings on powered snow removal equipment.
• If equipment becomes clogged, shut it off and wait until all moving parts have stopped and then use a clearing tool to unclog.
• Treat power lines, wires and other conductors as energized.
• Maintain a distance of at least 10 feet from any power line.
• Make sure all electrically powered equipment is grounded and includes a ground-fault circuit interrupter in the circuit.

What rights does a worker have?

Workers have a right to:

• Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
• Receive information and training in a language and vocabulary the worker understands about workplace hazards, prevention methods and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
• Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
• File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there’s a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA’s rules.
• Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA.

OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program offers no‑cost and confidential advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states. On-site consultation services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations.

Here’s the contact information for the Massachusetts On-Site Consultation Program:

OSHA Consultation Program
Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards
37 Shattuck Street
Lawrence, Massachusetts 01843
(617) 626-6504
(978) 687-0013

The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman has successfully handled workplace injury and workers’ compensation claims on behalf of individuals in Boston, Brockton, Cambridge, Lawrence and other areas of Massachusetts.
If you’ve been injured while removing snow or ice from a roof or other elevated surface or have suffered any other type of work accident, contact the Boston personal injury lawyers and wrongful death attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights.