Outdoor work in New York can be physically challenging and dangerous in the best of conditions. But in the winter months, those challenges are amplified by winter conditions, icy roads and accumulated snow. That’s why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released a list of winter hazards that employees and employers should understand. Among the most serious threats is rooftop snow removal.
Year in and year out, workers are killed and injured while attempting to remove snow and ice from rooftops or other structures. OSHA does not provide specific guidelines for rooftop snow removal; however, their guidance on fall protection methods, ladders and aerial lifts are all relevant.
The lack of a specific OSHA guideline doesn’t absolve an employer of unsafe conditions. OSHA’s General Duty Clause places a legal obligation on employers to protect workers from serious hazards in the workplace. That clearly applies to rooftop snow and ice.
The best way for an employer to avoid an injury related to rooftop snow removal is to plan ahead. The employer should only assign workers that are physically up to the task and ensure that they are properly trained before they begin work. This includes training on both safely accessing the roof and removing the ice and snow without injury.
Despite the clearest guidelines, workplace accidents still happen. A worker who is injured on the job may have a claim for damages through the worker’s compensation system. These damages could cover lost wages, pain and suffering and medical bills. An attorney with experience in worker’s compensation law may be able to help an injured employee obtain compensation for those damages.