When the snow just won’t stop, the time spent plowing really adds up. With hazards like poor visibility, nearby pedestrians or poor traction, ergonomics may not be the first thing that comes to mind when talking snow removal safety with your team. However, can you afford to lose one of your employees for 12 days? This was the average number of days lost from work due to ergonomic-related injuries in 2012. Among all occupational injuries, back injuries generate the highest frequency of disabling injuries. In fact, 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in their life. Plus, a person that has injured his back once is four times more likely to reinjure it. By ignoring ergonomics in your business, you ignore one of the most common causes of occupational injuries.
So, what is ergonomics? Simply put, it is fitting the work to the worker, not the other way around. Following are three areas where you can focus on reducing ergonomic risks for your snow removal team.
Getting in and out of the vehicle
For vehicles that require a bit of a climb to get into, this may be more of a risk to your operators than you realize. Vehicle access has been studied by professional ergonomists for transportation and delivery drivers and was found to be a significant ergonomic risk. When training your snow removal team on ergonomic risks, offer these best practices for entering and exiting the vehicle:
Use the vehicle handholds and steps. Strategically located steps and handholds are crucial to reducing ergonomic risk. Longer handholds have been shown to be the best option because they accommodate a wider range of worker sizes.
Don’t jump. Requiring three points of contact and facing the vehicle when getting in or out are also important. Jumping or dropping down from vehicles when exiting has been shown to increase the forces on a person’s vertebral discs by as much as 80% to 90%. Simply facing out while exiting the vehicle can increase those forces by as much as 20% to 40%.
Sitting for prolonged periods
After sitting in a static position for more than 20 to 25 minutes, there is reduced blood flow to your back and the spine loosens up, making it more vulnerable to injury. Jars or shocks from potholes in the road or running into obstacles while plowing shock the back at a time when it’s most vulnerable. To reduce the chance of an ergonomic injury snowplow operators should follow these tips:
Adjust your position. Operators should make a point to slightly adjust their sitting position in the vehicle at least every 20 to 30 minutes.
Follow the “two-minute warning.” This means that after an operator has been sitting for a prolonged period, such as 20 to 25 minutes or longer, he has two minutes where he must avoid any manual lifting, twisting or activities that could injure his back when it’s most vulnerable. These two minutes should be used to walk or simply move around, allowing blood flow to restore to the back and prepare it for action.
Implement good posture and control positioning. When in the cab, the less twisting, stooping or reaching the better. Keeping the seat, mirrors and plow controls positioned in a comfortable, easy-to-use location for the operator can make a huge difference. Stooping or leaning to operate the plow every time is not good.
Awkward lifts or pulling
If a snowplow operator has to wrestle with the plow to hook it up, the potential for a back injury increases. There are plows available that make this task effortless, but if your operators are hooking up a plow that is difficult to connect to the vehicle, get creative:
Prop the plow up before disconnecting it from the vehicle, making it easier to connect the next time.
Keep a long pry bar available in the truck to use as a lever to align the plow with the vehicle instead of the operator using his body.
Put the plow on a low-profile rolling cart when it is parked, making the plow easier to manipulate when hooking up or moving it to another location without the truck.
Whenever possible, leave the plow connected.
Contact your plow dealer. Some have accessories that might aid in the attachment process.
Identify any manual lifts that are obviously awkward, require twisting while holding the load, or must be carried away from the body, even for a moment. A good starting point is to target anything over 40 pounds. Even this weight can be hazardous if lifted the wrong way, but this gives your operator a frame of reference. Professional ergonomists will tell you that the horizontal distance from your body to the load being carried is the one factor that makes the biggest difference in preventing back injury. Also, watch for forceful pulling on things, which can actually be more hazardous than lifting.
Lastly, get things off the floor when possible. If you store materials that need to be lifted and moved manually, elevating the height at which they are stored can dramatically decrease the stress on the back. Ensure access around the load to limit unnecessary reaching or stooping. Remember that the goal of ergonomics is fitting the work to the worker, not the other way around.
The National Safety Council studied data from 2009-2010 and found the average cost of a lower back injury was $39,643. Think of your profit margin and how many jobs it might take to recoup the loss of even one back injury. When viewed in this light, there is suddenly room to spend a little time and money on ergonomics. Aside from the business reasons, you will find the more ergo-friendly a job becomes, the happier your employees will be. Anyone with experience in making such improvements will tell you there is a direct tie with employee morale and ergonomic improvements.
Author: Josh DeBroux. Josh is a certified safety professional and environmental health and safety director for BOSS Products.
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There's An App For That: Mobile Tools That Help You Run Your Snow Removal Business
There’s no doubt that we are in the technology age. Now a days everyone has a "smart" something, be it phone or tablet each stuffed with fun apps. However, Angry Birds isn’t the only thing out there. There are many apps that are designed to help us organize and manage our lives. There are also apps that can help you run your snow removal business. Read below to see how you can turn your phone or tablet into a powerful business tool.
NorEaster Storm Systems Compatible with a desktop, tablet or phone, this app allows you to enter all of your customers, their contact information and any additional notes about them and their properties. This app is also equipped with maps and weather services. It tracks your invoicing and payments. Whether you are a small or mid-sized business, this app is the one stop shop that can help save time, keep you organized and help you run your snow removal business effectively & efficiently.
Audio Note (iOS) Audio Note is a notepad for your phone or iPad that not only allows you to take notes, but can record your voice for any additional audio notes. If you choose, this app allows you to record the audio first and then go back and add notes later. It’s difficult to take down notes in the truck. Sometimes they can get lost or ruined and it’s a hassle to hunt down a pen and paper. With this app, it’s all in one place and you can even add pictures of the properties you have serviced and use the app as a job log.
NOAA Hi-Def Radar (android) (iOS version) Track the current weather radar and any upcoming winter storms with NOAA Hi-Def Radar. With this app you can receive detailed storm information which is critical when preparing for a big snow event. You can also bookmark locations. If you have some widespread clients the weather might not be the same at all of their properties, you can bookmark their sites for quick access.
NOAA Snow Forecast App (andoid) (iOS version) A great compliment to the NOAA Hi-Def Radar, this app was designed with the snow contractor in mind. This app tells you how much it's going to snow in the next couple of days in a particular neighborhood, instead of a forecast generalized to an entire city or larger area.
Radar Express (android) Radar Express is very similar to NOAA Hi-Def Radar. With this app, you get Doppler weather radar and hazardous weather alerts all coming directly from your local NOAA NWS office. When preparing for the next storm, tracking your local weather ahead of time is key.
Voxer Walkie Talkie (android) (iOS version) When it comes to communication, this app has it all. Voxer allows you to have a live, push to talk walkie talkie right on your phone for quick communication with your crew. All of the audio is recorded so you can listen to your messages whenever you want and replay messages as necessary. You can also text and start group chats, send pictures and share your location. Use this app to keep in touch with your employees while they are out on the job to improve communication and efficiency.
GPS Tracking Pro (android) With GPS Tracking Pro, you are able to keep track of your crew during the work day. This is especially helpful if you have someone who is going out to a remote location for a job by themselves. You can track your “lone workers” to make sure that they remain safe at the site and during their travels to and from the site.
Nav-free GPS Navigation (android) (iOS version) This is a free GPS navigation app with voice guidance for turn by turn directions. Much quicker than using a map, and with the voice guidance, it’s practically hands free. Just sit back and let your phone direct you to your next site.
Gas Buddy (android) (iOS version) Gas Buddy is an app that uses your location to determine the gas stations near you with the lowest prices. When gearing up for the next storm, the two most important things are your plow and your truck. In order to get your plow moving, the truck has to be gassed up. Often times, that turns out to be costly, but having Gas Buddy could save you some money.
Flashlight (android) (iOS version) A flashlight app is always a good app to have installed. There are many options available for both Apple phones and Android phones. This app can serve as a backup if your other flashlight dies unexpectedly. However, some flashlight apps have other functions that may also be helpful, such as strobe lighting, different colors that may be beneficial for night viewing, and different emergency flashing lights for all kinds of needs. As a snow removal professional, you face some of the worst conditions, sometimes at the worst of hours and you never know when the only thing you’ll need is a little light.
Traffic Cam (android) This app allows you to view your local traffic cams to check the traffic, but even more importantly, the weather. You can see what’s happening locally right as it’s happening, that way you can map out whose driveway or lot you need to clear first and the best way to get there.
Google Calendar (android) Everyone has or needs a calendar to keep track of events and stay organized. But there’s not exactly a place to hang one in your truck. With the Google Calendar app you can take a calendar with you in your pocket. You could schedule equipment maintenance checks or organize when customer payments are due and then set them with a notification, so you don’t forget. Paired with a weather radar app, you could map out a rough estimate of what days you should scout for icy conditions at your sites.
Adobe Reader (android) (iOS version) Adobe Reader allows you to view PDF files, fill out forms and sign PDF documents all from your smart phone or tablet. This can be helpful if you use PDF documents to fill out job logs or have a contract with a client in a PDF format. Keep it all in one place with the Adobe Reader.
LinkedIn (android) (iOS version) Get yourself out there and build a professional image for your business with the LinkedIn app. You can look for jobs, employees and network with other snow removal contractors. You can also get the latest industry news, gain insights from industry leaders and share your own knowledge.
It’s hard enough to manage your own business, much less managing it while you’re in and out of your vehicle servicing your customer base. With these mobile app solutions, you can take the office with you and stay organized when you are out taking care of your snow removal contracts.
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Auger or Pintle Chain: Which V-Box Hopper Spreader System Is Right For You?
If you’re doing research on electric v-box hopper spreaders, you are learning quickly that the two types of material feed systems available are the auger and pintle chain. If you don’t have a lot of experience with these spreader feed systems, you may be having a difficult time selecting which system best fits your snow and ice management needs. There are some key differences between the two that are important to understand.
In general, in the United States, auger feed systems tend to be more popular in the Midwest and Ohio Valley areas. Pintle chains are the preferred feed system in the New England region. It’s hard to say why but perhaps familiarity with previous v-box hopper spreading systems or agricultural products has led to the regional spreader feed system preferences.
Spreader Flow Rate & Pattern
Among the auger’s greatest advantages over the pintle system is that it has fewer moving parts and no chains to maintain. It has a simple steel auger with flighting that “pulls” the salt and sand material towards the discharge chute. The even pulling of the material by the auger allows the auger feed system to have a more “even” flow of material, and as a result, the spread pattern coming off the spreader tends to be more even than it does with a pintle chain system.
The pintle chain system utilizes a flat, 12” wide (BOSS) pintle chain which basically acts like a conveyor belt feeding material from the hopper to the discharge chute and spinner assembly. The large surface area of the pintle chain allows the system to carry more material to the discharge chute than the auger, especially when set at “Max Flow” settings.
In order to lessen the weight load of the material on the auger, most auger hoppers utilize inverted “v” baffles. These baffles help to control the weight and flow of the material onto the auger. If the weight on the auger is too great at startup – the motor could get damaged. Many pintle chain systems also use inverted v baffles as well – although they may not be always be needed with this feed system.
Because the pintle chain system is metallic and exposed to highly corrosive materials like salt, the need for maintaining the chain links, etc, is greater than it is for the auger feed system.
A tradeoff for the even flow of material that an auger system provides compared to a pintle system, is less material feed capability. In other words, if you set both systems at “max” flow output, the pintle system will have the ability to spread significantly more material than the auger system. Carefully consider the specifications of each before purchasing. For instance, the difference between the BOSS Snowplow feed systems:
Auger Flow Rate at MAX Setting Pintle Flow Rate at MAX Setting
2.3 cu ft (0.06 cu m) per minute
4 cu ft (0.11 cu m) per minute
The auger system also has the capability to break up chunks of salt and sand that sometimes form inside the hopper – the auger can in fact “crush” those clumps and allow them to be processed and spread. Many of the auger spreaders, have a feature that protects the auger motor from being overloaded by materials that jam the auger. The system will sense the jam and cause the auger to move in reverse and forward a couple of times in an effort to clear the jam. If the object is not cleared – the controller will indicate a jam has occurred, allowing the operator to clear the jam and save the auger motor from serious damage.
Most auger system v-box spreaders utilize vibrators to keep the material in the hopper loose enough to flow to the feed system. However, even the best vibration system in the world cannot overcome material which has frozen into a solid clump because of moisture or water intrusion. It is very important for the operator of the spreader to try to keep the spreading material as dry as possible, and ideally, not allow a filled hopper to sit for extended periods of time in very cold weather as “bridging” can occur. Bridging happens when the material freezes into a solid mass, no longer flowing into the feed system, creating a solid “bridge” of material over the top of the feed system much like a bridge over a flowing river.
Pro’s & Con’s Wrap Up
Auger Feed System
- Fewer Moving Parts
- More even flow of materials
- More even spreading pattern
- Less maximum material flow for spreading
- Material with rocks in it could cause jamming
Pintle Chain Feed System
- More maximum material flow for spreading
- Less potential for jamming
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The Snow Plowers Guide To Winter Storm Preparedness
As snow removal professionals, we all know the feeling, listening or reading the weather reports and watching the radar screen as the storm clouds draw closer and closer. While residents make preparations for staying in, you are making preparations for going to battle with the latest winter storm. You’ve done everything from checking the bolts on your snowplow to checking your windshield wipers and the fluid levels in your truck but what happens should you still have a break down or get stuck? Whether this is your first storm hitting the road as a snow removal contractor or your 100th storm, remember that you’re getting ready to go out into dangerous conditions. Prepare for the worst with this list of survival items before you face the next storm.
- First Aid Kit
- A can and waterproof matches (to melt snow for water)
- Windshield Scraper
- Booster Cables
- Road Maps
- Mobile Phone and car charger
- Tool Kit
- Paper Towels
- Bag of sand or cat litter (to pour on ice or snow for added traction)
- Tow Rope
- Tire Chains (in areas with heavy snow)
- Container of water and high-calorie canned or dried foods and a can opener
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Canned or compressed air with sealant (for emergency tire repair)
- Brightly colored cloth
Along with these winter survival items, you should also keep a set of spare emergency parts for your plow. If you are a BOSS Snowplow owner you can get an Emergency Parts Kit
available for both BOSS Straight Blades and Power-V plows. The parts kits include a cutting edge bolt kit, eye bolt kit, power unit solenoid kit, hydraulic fluid, hose, trip return spring, 12 volt relay, dielectric grease and ratchet strap. Parts kits can be purchased by contacting your local BOSS dealer
. However, BOSS owner or not, it is recommended to have a set of spare parts on hand for your snowplow.
Remember, being prepared for any situation is the key. Don’t wait until you need what you could have packed ahead of time. Stay safe and happy plowing!
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Top 5 BOSS Snowplow Blog Posts From 2013
As 2013 draws to a close, we took a look at the past year and the blog articles that have been developed and posted on THE BOSS SNOWPLOW blog page. Here is a summary of the top five blog posts of 2013.
#1 - BEFORE YOU BUY THAT DIESEL SNOWPLOW TRUCK
When it comes to buying a diesel-powered pickup truck for plowing snow, there are a few things you should consider before a purchase.
#2 - WHAT EVERYONE OUGHT TO KNOW BEFORE PURCHASING A SNOWPLOW
Before you purchase a snowplow, read about these important factors while considering your options.
#3 - MYTHS OF A DIRECT HYDRAULIC LIFT SNOW PLOW SYSTEM
Despite the twenty year tenure of the hydraulic lift snowplow system, there are a few myths that exist regarding the system.
#4 - 5 COMMON MISTAKES WHEN PREPARING YOUR SNOW PLOW FOR STORAGE
Keep these common snowplow storage mistakes in mind and avoid them when preparing your snow plow for storage.
#5 - THE ATV SNOW PLOW BUYING GUIDE FOR CONTRACTORS
A look at hydraulic vs winch ATV snowplow systems.
What blog articles would you like to see from THE BOSS in 2014? Comment with your ideas below.
Happy New Year!
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7 Reminders for Safe Winter Driving
With winter officially upon us, road conditions in many places have become more hazardous. And whether you’re the one plowing the roads or commuting from one plow site to the next, we could all use a refresher on some tips for driving safe this winter season. Take a look at these tips from Shift Into Winter:
Maintain a safe following distance. It takes longer to stop on a slippery road. Look ahead and keep plenty of distance between you and the other cars (at least four seconds).
Drop your speed to match road conditions. The posted speed is the maximum speed under ideal conditions. In winter, it is safer to drive below the posted speed. No matter how much experience you have, the way your vehicle will move on snow or ice always has an element of unpredictability.
Watch for black ice. Slow down when approaching icy areas such as shaded areas, bridges and overpasses as these sections of road freeze sooner than others in cold weather. Watch for “black ice”, areas of the road with a thing, almost invisible coating of ice, as it can cause our vehicle to suddenly lose control when you brake or corner.
Accelerate and brake slowly. On slick roads, start slowly and accelerate gradually to maintain traction and avoid spinning your wheels. When stopping, plan well in advance, apply the brakes gently and slowly add pressure. Never brake suddenly.
Avoid sudden moves. Slow down and steer smoothly and gradually to avoid skidding. Accelerate gently, turn slowly, and brake carefully and early. Avoid unexpected quick movements that could put you in a spin. Anticipate turns, stops, and lane changes well before they occur.
Know how to handle a skid. A skid happens when your wheels slide out of control on a slippery surface and is a result of driving too fast for road conditions. If you start to skid, ease off the brake or accelerator, and look and steer smoothly in the direction you want to go. Be careful not to over-steer. If you are on ice and skidding in a straight line, step on the clutch or shift to neutral.
See and be seen. It is critical for drivers to see and be seen in low light conditions, and when blowing snow impairs visibility. Always drive with your headlights on. If you are out plowing snow, don’t forget the visible strobe light for your vehicle.
Keep these tips in mind whether you’re on the job or just heading down the road and stay safe this winter season.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulfbodin/8261264147/">Ulf Bodin</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>
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Easing the Burden for Military Families, Michael Lindquist Backs Up Troops with Help on Home front
When duty calls, the men and women serving in the U.S. armed forces have America’s back as the first on the front lines to protect our freedom. That’s why Michael Lindquist, owner of Wilton Auto & Tire Center, Wilton, Conn., is backing up our troops as a volunteer with Project EverGreen’s SnowCare for Troops.
SnowCare for Troops is underwritten by THE BOSS Snowplow and matches registered military families with a spouse serving overseas with local snowplow professionals to provide free snow removal services. For the family member left behind, the burden of having to take on all of the household and caregiving tasks can weigh heavily during long deployments.
“Our family experienced this firsthand when my nephew, Brian, served with the National Guard a few years ago and did a tour in Afghanistan in the infantry,” explains Lindquist. Brian served with the National Guard for six years. “It was a nerve-wracking time for our family.”
Lindquist, who started his automotive service business 17 years ago, became a BOSS dealer in 2010 and learned about SnowCare for Troops when browsing THE BOSS website. “I thought it was a great way to give back and to show support for our military who give 100 percent to us.”
SnowCare for Troops is in its fourth season with about 3,750 families and 1,400 volunteers signed up to participate in the program.
“We all forget what families go through when a spouse gets called overseas. Then suddenly they are left to do everything including plowing the driveway,” adds Lindquist.
“Next time you are pushing snow in a warm cab with a hot cup of coffee, think about what our troops are facing at that very moment and how their families feel worrying about their safety.” Then think about joining SnowCare for Troops.
HOW YOU CAN HELP SUPPORT PROJECT EVERGREEN’S SNOWCARE FOR TROOPS:
• Volunteer at projectevergreen.com/scft
• Loan snow removal equipment to a local volunteer.
• Donate money, transportation or gas cards.
• Refer a military family.
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How to Install Your BOSS Snowplow Caster Kit
When your snowplow comes off the truck at the end of the season, it’s not always ideal
to have it stationary. Sometimes where it’s first placed isn’t where it ends up staying and it can be a lot of work to move it elsewhere. To combat this problem, BOSS is pleased to announce the release of our newest accessory: a Plow Caster “Dolly” Wheel Kit. This kit is ideal for Homeowners, Contractors and Dealers alike for moving plows around the garage, service bay, or showroom floor. Two separate kits are available for straight and V-blades*. Check out how to install them below:
- Before you are ready to attach the caster “Dolly” wheels to your plow, you must first assemble the casters. Refer to your Caster Kit Installation Instructions or here for assembly instructions and pictures.
- Once the casters are assembled, raise your snowplow fully.
- Add two jack stands under the plow’s cutting edge for safety. Even though your plow is raised, anything could happen and you do not want the blade dropping unexpectedly.
- These casters utilize the preexisting holders for plow shoes. If plow shoes are already installed, remove and store in a safe place.
- For a V-blade apply the two large 3.25 inch caster assemblies in both
outer shoe holders. For a straight blade apply the two small 3 inch caster assemblies in both outer shoe holders. For both blades, adjust the washers as needed either above or below the shoe holder. Be sure to lock each of them in with the quick pin.
- For a V-blade, install the small 3 inch caster assembly into the center shoe holder. For a straight blade, remove the existing kickstand and insert the new caster kickstand with caster in the kickstand’s place. Be sure the new kickstand is then raised to max height and locked into place with the existing spring loaded pin.
- For a V-blade, remove the safety jack stands and lower the plow in the V-position onto a hard, level surface. For a straight blade, remove the safety jack stands and lower the plow onto a hard, level surface. Next, lower the kickstand caster assembly until the caster is resting on a hard, level surface. Be sure the spring loaded pin locks into the appropriate hole.
- With the plow controller in float mode, follow instructions to detach the plow and back your truck away. You can now push the plow to the desired location. All the casters have a locking brake. Step down on the brakes to set as needed.
- Use the reverse procedure when taking the caster assemblies off. Always be sure to use the safety jack stands.
The heavy duty caster wheels feature steel ball bearings for smooth movement and long lasting life, making moving your plow a breeze time and time again. If you have any additional questions on installing your plow caster kit, contact THE BOSS Snowplow any time at – www.bossplow.com.
*Kits not available for Power-V DXT, Sport-Duty, UTV/ATV, Skid Steer and 10' Straight-Blade plows.
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Personal Protective Equipment For Snow Employees
*By Doug Freer, CSP. Doug owns Blue Moose Snow Co. in Cleveland.
Your company has specific responsibilities as it relates to your employees’ health, safety and well-being. Providing necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) is one such responsibility.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has minimum PPE requirements that employers must provide to employees at no expense to them. Similar state agencies may also have requirements. While there is some ambiguity in OSHA regulations as they relate specifically to the snow & ice management industry (See story on Page 48), at a minimum, a company needs to ensure it does not place its employees knowingly into an unsafe working environment. Now is the time to review your policies and make any appropriate changes to your program.
Cost To The Company
Managing uniforms and PPE is part of a company safety program, and the better managed the lower the indirect costs will be to the company.
Your company does not have to pay for or provide any PPE equipment that goes beyond OSHA’s minimum requirements. But consider whether certain items would improve employee safety and morale, and whether they are worth the investment regardless.
What is the cost of a workers’ compensation claim compared with the purchase of PPE that could have prevented the injury? Beyond an increase in premium costs, there are indirect costs related to employee injury, such as lost productivity and efficiency, increased labor costs, increased training costs for new/replacement employees, and increased supervisory time to manage incidents and the adjustments that have been made to the team.
Uniform items are not considered PPE but may serve a dual purpose of helping to prevent injuries and to keep your employees safe. A well-run safety program will, in part, focus on the management of uniform gear and PPE for its employees; but the cost of providing items either directly or through reimbursements, in addition to the administration of the program, are direct costs to the company and impact the bottom line.
What PPE Is Neccessary
From head to toe, consider the work environment, job description and function of each piece of PPE to determine what uniform or PPE could or should be used when performing the job. Pay particular attention to PPE related to tasks that involve chemical handling and prolonged exposure to the elements.
Required or optional?
When evaluating what gear or PPE is required in your company, remember that you cannot make an employee work in an unsafe condition. For example, if you require a hat and winter work gloves to perform their job and the employee shows up without them, you cannot force them to work without those items. Either you send them home or you provide them with replacements.
There is a difference, however, between minimum regulatory requirements and what you may require above and beyond for your employees to work. You may also make suggestions and choose to make certain items optional. While you do not have to provide items beyond the minimum, consider the hassle of not providing or making items available that you require.
Rain pants, a wind-blocking coat, knit hat and safety vest would help keep employees dry, warm and visible.
You don’t want to wait until the first storm of the season is bearing down on you to ensure your employees are outfitted and protected. Consider the following points as you build your PPE program:
- What PPE will you inventory in an equipment supply closet or cabinet that is ready for distribution?
- How will the inventory be managed and tracked, and who is responsible for those tasks?
- If you are not distributing PPE prior to the season, how will you verify that employees have the necessary PPE before they begin work?
- Do they need to bring it into work for someone to verify they have the necessary gear? What is the repercussion if they show up unprepared?
Company-provided PPE will result in readily available gear, increasing the convenience factor for employees, as well as ensuring consistency across the company. Providing the same type of safety vests or jackets with or without company identification/logos presents a unified appearance. What happens if you don’t provide them, for example, an employee brings a safety vest that does not meet your standards? It may take more time to manage the exceptions than it would to simply manage a PPE/uniform program that provides consistent results.
Employers must provide OSHA-required PPE at no cost to the employee, but what about additional company-required uniform or safety items that go beyond the minimum standard?
- Will you bite the bullet and make the investment to pay for all items?
- Will the employee be expected to return the items after each event or each season?
- For borrowed gear, will employees pay a deposit in the event of loss or damage?
- Can they pay for items via a payroll deduction?
- What happens if they lose it or wear out an item and require a replacement?
- Considering the expense to be properly equipped, will employees who must acquire the gear be financially capable of doing so prior to the season?
- Do you provide a PPE or uniform type reimbursement for certain items like winter work boots?
Employees should be trained on winter workplace safety and proper dress prior to the start of the season. You could hold a preseason meeting, post the information on a bulletin board, and include pertinent information in an employee or safety manual. Here are a few topics at minimum that should be covered:
- What type of gear or PPE is required or optional?
- What are the consequences of not wearing required uniform or PPE?
- How do you identify, protect against and avoid issues like frostbite, hypothermia and fatigue?
- What will the employee provide, and what will the company provide?
- Review the training/safety manual.
- Review best practices and let experienced workers share what has worked best for them.
- Review the position description and job function with each team member, and answer their questions about gear they may need and how they can acquire it.
Proper safety gear communicates a message to current and prospective employees as well as your clients and the general public.
Traffic cones and warning lights for vehicles and equipment are part of a coordinated safety program and help to ensure that the public and your employees are safe. Take your safety program a step further by proactively addressing and managing uniform/PPE for the benefit of your employees and company.
Safety tips - health and wellness in the field
Drink plenty of fluids. Mild dehydration can drain energy and make you feel tired. Your sidewalk crews, particularly hand labor crews, are likely in need of more fluids than equipment operators, given their increased level of activity. Water is the best choice for hydration.
Watch the caffeine. Research has shown that large amounts of caffeine—more than 500 to 600 milligrams (equivalent to 5 to 7 cups of coffee)—per day can have a diuretic effect and can make you jittery, sleepless or anxious. If you want hot tea or coffee, consider decaf.
Stay warm. Working outdoors without proper protection from the cold, wind and precipitation can weaken immune systems that may already be under stress. Make sure you are properly dressed for the weather.
Be a germ buster. During a storm, contractors may not have access to facilities to wash their hands, leaving them prone to spreading or catching colds or other illnesses. Prior to and after a storm event, wipe down steering wheels, plow and equipment controls, door handles and all other items in the cab that crews may touch. Antibacterial wipes and lotion are inexpensive and can be made readily available to your crews to encourage their use when soap and water are not available.
Suggested uniform and PPE by position description
- Proper undergarments for layering
- Water-resistant/proof jacket and outerwear
- Multiple layers of gloves in case they become wet
- Different types of gloves for different functions (general warmth, chemical handling, working on equipment, etc.
- Multiple hats to change during the storm as they get wet
- Waterproof and warm foot gear
- Reflective outerwear either incorporated into waterproof jacket or safety vest
Plow and/or salt truck driver
- Gloves for handling deicier equipment
- Eye/face protection for handling liquid deicing chemicals
- Hearing protection for snowblowers, backpack blowers, etc.
- Ski goggles for snowblowers or ATV operators
- Helmet for ATV operations
Article courtesy of Goplow.com. For additional educational articles visit: www.goplow.com
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Safety Tips For ATV & UTV Snow Removal Crews
ATV and UTV equipment has emerged as an efficient and effective means of snow removal for many snow contractors. Whether it is the clearing of a trail system, city sidewalk or residential path, the use of ATV and UTV equipment has become a popular tool in the snow removal toolbox. With any piece of equipment, operator safety needs to be of paramount concern and this is certainly the case with the operation of ATV and UTV equipment.
When you send someone out to plow with an ATV or UTV, have you explained the risks of the job to them? Have you taken steps to help them avoid an injury? Before sending your snow removal crew out this winter, address the ATV & UTV equipment risks with them and properly prepare the equipment for snow removal use.
Risk #1: Loss of control
Slipping on ice and sliding into something is one way to lose control and potentially causing injury to the equipment and operator. To maintain equipment control:
- Install Proper Tires – You want to be sure you have proper traction on snow and ice covered surfaces. Having the correct tires with adequate tread will help with controlling the equipment on these slippery services.
- Maintain Speed Control – Slow down and consider road conditions. As an extra precaution, install a governor on the machine to limit equipment speed.
- Keep Your Hands Where They Should Be – In the case of ATVs, taking your hands off the handlebars to operate the plow could lead to a loss of control. Manual lever-operated plows require you to remove at least one hand from the handlebars. A hydraulic or winch-operated plow is a better option since it allows you to keep your hands where they should be.
- Helmet & Seat Belt Use – In the unfortunate event that loss of control does happen, make sure you are wearing a DOT-rated helmet. Also, seat belts must be worn when in a UTV. The overhead structure on a UTV can kill an operator who falls out of the cab as it tips over, but a seat belt will keep them inside.
Risk #2: Poor visibility
Snow plow operators need to see and be seen. The operator of an ATV has better visibility than a UTV—no windshields to fog or ice up and no structure in the way. In addition, consider these tips to help eliminate visibility risks:
- Goggles with anti- fog technology, similar to those worn by downhill skiers, can work well for an ATV operator when it is snowing.
- A strobe light should be attached to the equipment.
- A high visibility vest should be worn by the operator.
Risk #3: Strains/sprains
The manual force required to raise and lower a lever-operated plow on an ATV can be a significant ergonomic risk. To minimize the chance of injury, ergonomic guidelines published by professional ergonomists would limit the acceptable force for a pull toward your body with one arm at shoulder height to no more than 10 ½ lbs. if performing this motion ≥ 2/min. and no more than 23 lbs. if doing it < 2/min. If you are not sure how yours compares to this guideline, hook a fish scale up to the lever and see how much force it requires. To lower the risk of injury, consider the use of a winch or hydraulically operated plow.
Risk #4: Slips and falls
Slips and falls are a hazard for those who work in snow and ice management. Minimizing the amount of time on and off the ATV & UTV equipment can minimize the risk:
- Consider the use of hydraulically operated plows as they eliminate getting on and off to change the plow angle.
- Use strap-on footwear with cleats for walking on slippery surfaces. This can make a huge difference and is well worth the cost when compared to the average slip and fall injury.
Risk #5: Stranded in the cold
A frequently overlooked risk is equipment breakdown or injury in remote areas. In the event of a breakdown:
- Have a means of communication such as a fully charged cell phone or two-way radio.
- Compact emergency roadside kits are available at most auto stores, which you can augment with your own items as desired. Be sure operators are familiar with the location & contents of such a kit.
- Lastly, if you are concerned about the wellbeing of someone alone in a remote location, there is technology available for “lone worker” monitoring. It can monitor the person’s location via GPS, prompt them to report in periodically, or notify someone if there is no motion for a predetermined amount of time. Some can even notify you of a sudden change in orientation – i.e. they are horizontal all of a sudden.
Awareness and education play a significant role in keeping your team safe. While ATVs & UTVs play a significant role in snow removal, don’t forget to educate your team on the risks and provide safe equipment before heading out to tackle the next winter storm.
Josh DeBroux is a certified safety professional and Environmental Health & Safety Director for The BOSS.
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