Winter weather in Pennsylvania can be more than just a temporary inconvenience for outdoor workers. Other than cooler temps, winter also brings with it a slew of potentially risky conditions. For this reason, employers are urged to recognize common winter weather hazards and provide their workers with properly maintained vehicles and the correct personal protective equipment (PPE). This includes appropriate personal fall protection systems for employees regularly working from heights.
One of the top winter occupation-related hazards that could lead to workers’ compensation claims is rooftop snow removal, which is a task that results in multiple injuries and other serious incidents each year. OSHA doesn’t have specific rooftop snow removal standards, but the agency does have standards for ladders, aerial lifts and fall prevention devices and systems employers need to be mindful of. There’s also a general duty clause in the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act that compels employers to recognize hazards unique to weather conditions.
Employers are also required to sufficiently train their workers, which extends to special guidance for winter-related hazard protection (e.g., snowblower operation, working on potentially slippery surfaces and snow removal). Winter weather training is particularly important for employees who arrived from locations where cold, snow and ice are not usually issues. Training on how to inspect vehicles; setting up work zones with signs, cones, and other barriers; what to do if stranded; what to do about jammed snowblowers; and ensuring only properly trained employees remove downed trees or branches are additional steps that may improve outdoor worker safety in winter.
Since insufficient medical evidence is a common reason for denied workers’ compensation claims, the assistance of an attorney can be helpful. A lawyer is typically able to gather medical records, obtain reputable medical opinions and conduct depositions of medical experts. When it’s time to negotiate with an employer’s insurance company in an attempt to reach a fair settlement, an attorney may be able to present a clearer picture of the extent of a worker’s injuries and job-related limitations to help secure compensation for medical bills and lost wages.