Winter weather can create dangerous conditions when working outside. Workers may suffer serious injuries, including electrocution, fractures, strains, sprains, and other injuries and illnesses.
The seasoned Harrisburg workers’ compensation attorneys at Schmidt Kramer are dedicated to protecting the rights of injured workers. We want to help you stay safe this winter by being aware of potential accidents that can occur during the snowy season.
Some of the most common workplace hazards that employees encounter during the winter include the following:
1. Winter Driving
Roads with ice, sleet or slush can be slippery and dangerous. Drivers may not be used to operating a vehicle on these slick surfaces. Vehicles can easily skid and crash into other vehicles and pedestrians if proper precautions are not followed.
2. Working Near Downed Power Lines
The weight of snow and ice collecting on power lines can cause them to fall down or be damaged. These lines are still energized, so workers should stay clear of live wires and report them to the local utility company.
Working on these downed lines may present the following hazards:
- Electrocution caused by coming into contact with live power lines
- Being hit by falling tree limbs and collapsing poles
- Fires caused by equipment failure or a live line
Moisture from snow can reduce the insulation value of protective layers around the wires, potentially leading to electrocution even if the wires are not exposed. This is important information for workers who are tasked with repairing or replacing downed power lines.
3. Removing Downed Trees
Workers may be required to remove trees that have fallen down. These employees may be construction workers, emergency response teams, road workers and tree service workers.
It may be urgent to remove a downed tree that blocks a public road. This job can be very dangerous, because workers may come into contact with downed power lines or loose tree limbs.
4. Working at Heights
Working at heights is already dangerous because of the potential to fall. This work becomes even more hazardous during the winter due to snow or ice making surfaces slippery.
Surfaces may be weighed down by snow and therefore may not be safe to walk on due to the potential of collapsing. Snow may also cover up areas of a surface so a worker cannot see the vulnerable areas, such as a skylight, where there is the possibility of falling through.
5. Slips and Falls
Another common work hazard during the winter is the possibility of slipping and falling due to snow and ice. Workers may slip on walkways, scaffolding and other slick surfaces.
Employers have a duty to keep their workplace safe. There are several ways that employers can put safety first, including:
- Use personal protective equipment – Employers should provide workers with safety gear to protect against electrocution from downed power lines and other hazards. This should include proper footwear when they are walking on ice or snow, such as insulated and water-resistant boots.
- Use safe snow-removal methods – Employers should use safe snow-removal methods that do not require employees to get on top of the roof.
- Train employees – Employees should be educated on the proper use of safety equipment and the tools necessary to complete the assigned task. Employees should understand work hazards and know how to respond to them.
- Keep work vehicles in proper repair – Equip all vehicles for winter driving. This includes having even and balanced brakes, a mixture of 50/50 antifreeze in the cooling system, charged batteries, adequate oil, and proper tread depth and inflation. The plan should also include a maintenance schedule for all company vehicles.
- Establish safe driving practices – Have written protocols regarding safe driving, including banning phones while driving.
- De-ice walkways – Areas where employees will work should be properly de-iced and have snow removed.
- Avoid exposure to extremely cold temperatures – When possible, avoid exposing employees to extremely low temperatures. Make sure employees have the proper winter clothing to protect themselves from the cold.
- Communicate with workers – Have a reliable way to stay in touch with workers, especially when they are in remote locations.
Contact a Harrisburg Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
If you have been injured in a winter workplace accident, it is important that you contact an experienced Harrisburg workers’ compensation lawyer for assistance. He or she can explain your legal options to you and help ensure that you complete the necessary documentation to support your work-related incident.
We can talk about your options during a free consultation. We work on a contingency fee basis, so you have nothing to lose by contacting us to learn more about your legal rights – and the possibility of recovering compensation for your work-related injuries.