Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in GroundBreaker magazine, distributed by Caterpillar dealers. It has been republished with permission.
Many contractors stay active during the cold weather months by taking on snowplowing jobs that are a far cry from their usual construction applications. This winter work poses it own dangers. With that in mind, here are some tips from safety.cat.com to help avoid jobsite accidents that cause injuries and property damage.
1. Don’t Obstruct Vision with Stacked Snow
Before snow removal begins, plan where and how you are going to pile the snow. Stacking snow around entrances to buildings and parking lots, or on street corners, can lead to serious accidents, some potentially fatal. Always move the snow to areas that will not block the visibility of pedestrians or traffic.
2. Mark Obstructions in the Plow Area
Every jobsite will have some obstructions, such as fire hydrants, parking lot shopping cart holders, handicap parking spots and drainage areas. Mark all obstructions prior to the plowing season. Keep snow piles at least three feet away from hydrants. Never pile snow in front of designated parking places. When plowing a store parking lot, always remove the snow around the cart holders by hand. Never push the cart holders with the plow; this can damage your equipment as well as the cart holder.
3. Clean Drainage Areas
Drainage areas should be marked prior to the season. Clean drainage areas help ensure that melting snow and ice will not cause problems such as water damage to buildings, loss of parking spots, slip and fall hazards, etc.
4. Beware Thawing/Refreezing on Inclines
Have a map of the area you are plowing and plan where the snow piles are going to placed before you begin. Be aware of the entrances and the exits as well as the ground elevation. Never pile snow on an incline where snow and ice can melt, flow into high-traffic areas and then refreeze. Visualize where the water from the melted snow is going to go and plan ahead to ensure the snow pile you create will not be a hazard as it melts.
5. Know Your Surroundings
Equipment operators should familiarize themselves with their surroundings and perform a walk-around inspection before operating the machine to ensure no one is in the working area. Check mirrors and sound the horn before moving the machine. Pedestrians and other vehicles do not always recognize you are there, even if you are in a large machine. Cars and people have the right of way. Always be alert!
6. Back Up Cautiously
Always test to be sure the back-up alarm works and is loud enough to be heard over the noise of the machine. To do this, set the parking brake, start the machine and move the control lever to the “Reverse” position. The alarm should sound until the lever has been moved to the “Neutral” or “Forward” position. If the alarm does not sound, DO NOT operate the machine until the problem has been fixed. Be sure to sound the horn and wait five seconds before moving the machine. Use your mirrors frequently. Adjust and clean them for visibility.
7. Don’t Push Snow Across a Road
Parking lots and other sites often pose challenges because of their proximity to streets. Avoid pushing or dragging snow across an open road. Putting your equipment on the road creates a hazard — oncoming traffic, often times in the early morning hours, will not be expecting heavy equipment, and winter conditions make braking more difficult. Also, pushing or dragging snow across a street can leave debris in the road, posing a traffic hazard. If you must work on or near a road, use signs, high-quality reflectors and lights to warn traffic.
8. Be Prepared for the Cold
Monitor the weather. Dress appropriately by wearing layers of warm clothing with proper ventilation. Wear water-resistant clothing and a windproof outer shell, and insulated gloves and socks. Keep spare clothes on hand. Wear head protection with an insulated liner. Restrict exposure when the temperature is below 0° F (-17° C) or the wind chill reaches -22° F (–30° C). In severe conditions, stay in touch with other crew members by phone or radio at least once per hour.
9. Stay Safe
Perform a pre-shift inspection of the area to be plowed as well as a machine walk-around inspection. Document your actions, and be sure everyone around you is working safely. Mount and dismount your machine using three points of contact. Wear your seatbelt when operating equipment. Stay alert. End your day with a post-shift inspection and a machine walk-around inspection. Refill the fuel tank and any other fluids as needed.