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Snow removal workers at risk of fall-related workplace accidents

Connecticut employers might be aware of the safety risks involved in working at heights. Falls are one of the leading causes of worker deaths in the United States, with most falls involving construction workers, tree workers or workers engaged in maintenance, painting and cleaning of high-rise buildings. Snow removal workers are also at a high risk of falls and other safety hazards. Ladder falls, scaffolding falls and falls from roofs and windows are frequently reported among snow removal workers, especially from those workers who are inexperienced or improperly trained.

In one recent workplace accident, a snow removal worker slipped and fell off of a rooftop and died after he smashed his head onto construction materials stacked at the base of the building. In another incident, a worker fell from a residential construction site while removing snow from the rooftop and was killed when he fell onto an erect piece of scaffolding.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, these worker fatalities were most likely preventable. A few precautions by employers may help in reducing the risk of injuries among snow workers.

First and foremost, workers should be trained about safety hazards inherent in working with heights. They should be provided with proper fall protection equipment and reminded to fasten their harnesses tightly before climbing to high places. In case a worker falls, a fall protection rescue system should be in place at ground level. Ground crews should also be protected from falling snow. Eye protection should be worn when using snow blowers and other machinery for snow removal. Additionally, employers are recommended to look out for ways to remove snow from rooftops that doesn't require sending workers to such heights. Finally, risk areas covered in snow should be clearly marked.

Snow removal workers in Connecticut should be aware of their rights in the event of a workplace accident. They may file a workers' compensation claim against their employer. Employers are responsible to pay the benefits regardless of their negligence. The compensation awarded to a workplace accident victim may include medical expenses and lost wages.

Source: Riskandinsurance.com, "Winter weather creates particular risks for workers removing snow," Feb. 18, 2013

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