By Tim Baxter, Road Safety and Loss Prevention Specialist

Winter is right around the corner. NIRMA receives numerous claims including workers comp, property damage, etc. from accidents related to snow and ice storms.
Road department employees work in all kinds of weather, but winter weather is the worst. There are slick roads, shop floors, and parking lots, etc. along with heavy lifting of tire chains, blades, etc. Employees deal with impatient taxpayers while plowing roads with heavy traffic, heavy snow, poor visibility, and terrible traction for their equipment. All this adds up to extra stress, injuries and accidents.

The best thing road department management can do in preparation for winter is to hold Snow Removal Safety meetings no later than the end of October. Making employees aware of the dangers of winter weather and snow removal will inform them of what can happen, not only to seasoned employees but especially to new employees. Safety training should be documented with minutes, sign-in sheets, etc. saved as well. Act on the safety concerns of your employees as soon as practical. NIRMA has developed an in-depth snow removal safety program that can be presented to your employees. Inform employees of their responsibilities including snow routes and the county’s snow removal program. Prepare and send letters to the local newspaper explaining your snow removal policy and priority snow removal route maps, also copy emergency services, schools and sheriff’s office. Good public relations are critical during this time.

The first part of October, or earlier, is the time to order salt and sand, if your county uses it. Equipment should be inspected for working condition and needed repairs, fuel filters changed, proper mix of anti-freeze in radiators, enough grader blades, plow blades/bolts and tire chains are in stock, sanders inspected and in good operating condition, snowplows inspected and ready to install, etc. If you wait until the middle of winter to order the aforementioned supplies and materials, vendors may be out of stock and it could be weeks before you receive the proper supplies to plow snow.

Instruct the road department employees to make a dry run of their snow routes prior to the first snow. They should inspect for objects the public may have left in county right-of-way, near the road, which could be covered by snow and hit by snow removal equipment. Again, thoroughly inspect your snow removal equipment, including plows and sanders, to ensure they are in good working order to prevent breakdowns during a snowstorm.

Unfortunately, the public is not very forgiving when their roads are blocked, and they can’t get to the coffee shop to complain about the county not getting their roads open.

Since the topic of snow removal safety is so broad, it would take numerous pages to cover every aspect in our monthly newsletter. Please let me know if you are interested in NIRMA presenting a Snow Removal Safety presentation in your county, would like to host a regional training in your county or would like the training via ZOOM. The training is for all road department employees, including management. Please let me know of any questions by contacting me at tim@nirma.info or 402-310-4417. Be Safe.

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