When severe winter weather threatens, most people hunker down in their homes and wait for the storm to pass. However, there are many other people who must be out on the roads. Chief among those are the very people whose work ensures that snow and ice are removed or treated to allow for safe use of the roads. To keep essential workers and other motorists safe on wintery roadways, road crews must brave the elements and work with heavy machinery in dangerous conditions to clear the way for other road users’ safe travels.
Considering how perilous the work can be, there are a number of steps road crew members and their companies must do to ensure that they stay out of harm’s way while they are out working to provide safe passage to others. If you are a manager or member of a road crew tasked with keeping the roads safe and clear, this discussion offers ways to prepare for and execute roadway snow removal while keeping yourself, your crewmates, and other motorists safe out there in the cold.
The most obvious thing a road maintenance company should do to ensure their crews’ safety on the job is to train them properly on how to safely use the equipment and handle the materials used to treat the roads. They should also train employees to review their assigned routes before the roads are covered with snow and ice.
Job training should also include basic driving expectations. Road crew drivers must obey traffic laws, for their own safety and the safety of others. They should be required to wear a seat belt, avoid tailgating, and keep their attention on the road at all times while operating their vehicle.
Training should include backup safety, how and when to raise the dump bed, how to safely unclog the spreader, and how to safely change the plow blades.
Identifying and Addressing Hazards
Although there are obvious hazards associated with this work, from slipping on ice or being harmed by the cold, some dangers are less clear, so crewmate training is essential when it comes to identifying hazards.
Sagging tree limbs heavy with snow can endanger road workers if their trucks do not have adequate clearance. More urgently, electrical lines present a serious threat of electrocution if they are too low. Another hazard appears when poor or obstructed drainage causes roads to collect water and become impassable from ice or a pool of water too deep to safely cross. Addressing these issues by cutting back overgrowth, adjusting wires to a safe distance from the road surface, and ensuring proper drainage can prepare roadways long in advance of winter storms.
Vehicle and Equipment Safety
Road maintenance companies must also confirm that work equipment is up to the task. All work vehicles should be regularly inspected for safety, and any issues should be promptly addressed. Plows should be properly secured. Salt spreaders should be in good working order.
Crews should be trained how to properly use an engine block heater, which may become necessary when starting their truck in the extreme cold. They should also know to check their fuel, fluid levels, wiper blades, defroster, heater, headlights, brakes, back-up alarm, and tire pressure and wear. The vehicle should also be equipped with warning lights and caution flags to alert motorists to the roadwork being performed.
Another aspect of safety for road crews is the condition of the drivers themselves. First and foremost, the drivers should be up to the physical task of performing the work required, especially if the plow or spreader becomes jammed or some other problem occurs that requires strength to address.
An extension of these demands on the crew members’ physical condition, the workers should be well rested and free from the influence of any intoxicants such as alcohol or drugs, including prescription medications.
Personal Protective Equipment
The physical readiness of the crew members must be reinforced with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including several layers of clothing, hardhat with warming liner, warm work gloves, and appropriate footwear with anti-slip and waterproof properties. Reflective safety vests are also a must.
Finally, road maintenance crews who are out on long shifts in harsh conditions on desolate roads should absolutely be prepared for an emergency. Most importantly, every road maintenance driver working to clear the roads in a snowstorm should have a cell phone or radio with them to communicate their whereabouts and any safety issues they encounter.
The driver should also have on hand the essentials of a driver’s emergency kit, including a flashlight, batteries, jumper cables, a tool set, road flares, and a first aid kit. To address winter-specific problems, the driver should have a snow shovel; ice scraper; snow brush; and a bag of salt, sand, or kitty litter to create traction if they get stuck in the snow or ice.
For the personal comfort of a driver awaiting help, it can also be a good idea to have a blanket, a snack, and bottled water.
New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC Represent Road Crew Workers Who Have Been Injured on the Job
If you were hurt in an on-the-job accident while you were clearing the roads of snow after a storm, you should be able to collect Workers’ Compensation benefits through your employer’s insurance provider. If your claim is denied or your settlement does not satisfy your rightful damages, the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC can help you recover the losses you suffered by appealing your claim or supporting your case for a more appropriate settlement. Call us at 856-751-7676 or contact us online for a free consultation. Our offices are in Mount Laurel, Cherry Hill, Trenton, and Vineland, New Jersey; and Trevose, Pennsylvania. We serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.