Whether you’re a plow driver or part of the sidewalk crew, being aware of your surroundings and preparing for the work ahead can help to reduce injuries out in the field. Obviously each line of work is a little different but here are a few key tips to set your team up for success and ensure safety on the job.
Snow and ice control is a physically demanding line of work, so don’t take stretching lightly. A pre-event stretch can give you the warm up you need to get your blood flowing and reduce the chance of injury. Try to stretch at least once an hour or after each job to alleviate tight muscles and find a sense of relief. And just like any workout, it’s best to end with a thorough stretch to avoid cramping.
Tips for Sidewalk Crews
Sidewalk work can be more dangerous than driving a plow truck since you have nothing to protect you in the middle of a blizzard. Here are a few things to be aware of when completing sidewalk work:
- Pay Attention & Stay Noticed: Keep strobe lights and high-visibility gear on to create awareness and face oncoming traffic so you and other drivers can see each other. Uneven surfaces, like manholes or raised sidewalks should be marked to avoid tripping and falling over hidden obstacles.
- Proper Technique: When shoveling, try to push the snow as much as possible but when lifting, make sure to use your knees rather than your back. Walk-behind equipment and even wheeled shovels can help to reduce the chance of overexertion but it’s always a good idea to still take breaks often.
- Powered Equipment: Using a rotary broom or a UTV with a plow and spreader increase productivity and reduce the strain caused by manually shoveling snow. An enclosed UTV cab also protects workers and keeps them out of the winter elements where they are less likely to suffer injuries.
- Cold Stress Factors: Hypothermia, frostbite and trench foot are real concerns for sidewalk crews that are exposed to precipitation, wind and cold temperatures. Wear protective equipment such as insulated boots and gloves; layers of waterproof and breathable clothing; high-visibility jackets or vests; and of course, warm socks and a hat. Always pack extra gear in case it gets wet.
Tips for Snow Plow Drivers
Getting behind the wheel immediately makes you responsible for the safety of everyone around you. Make sure that others notice you by proactively using strobe lights or cones to alert pedestrians and oncoming vehicles of your work area. Be on the lookout for anything you could come in contact with to swiftly avoid it, especially at nighttime in the middle of a snow storm when clear vision may be compromised.
For plow drivers, the strain from sitting in a truck for hours can cause chronic back pain. Here are a few ideas on how to prevent and alleviate discomfort.
- Properly position your seat so you’re sitting up straight with the seat properly angled. You should be able to comfortably put both hands on the steering wheel without reaching for the pedals or slouching in your seat.
- Avoid unnecessary twisting and drive carefully—a sudden bump can easily throw out your back.
- Adding lumbar support can alleviate discomfort immediately and reduce long term back problems. Even simply putting a rolled up towel behind your back can help.
- Use a gel seat cushion to reduce the vibration felt in the cab while driving.
- Heated seats or a heated seat cover will relax the muscles in your back and promote proper blood circulation. It’s very comforting while working in frigid temperatures but since the sudden shock of cold air can stiffen muscles, make sure to stretch often when using a heating device.
- If your legs or back start to get a tingling sensation or go numb, it’s a sign to get up and move around.
By preparing for the work ahead, bringing the essential supplies and being mindful of your surroundings you’ll be able to help reduce injuries while on the job.