Snow Plow Driver Safety

Feb. 13, 2012 - If you’re a snowplow driver or own a private snow removal business, you have a tough job operating under difficult conditions: slippery, snow-covered or ice-coated surfaces, high winds and blowing snow that create whiteout conditions and low visibility.

If you own a private snow removal service, the best practice is to use a written contract for snow and ice work. Don’t settle for a handshake agreement. The contract could determine who is responsible for the loss – you (the business owner) or the property owner.

Adding to this mix are low temperatures that can cause a vehicle to breakdown or equipment to freeze. Snow and ice may also obscure markings and boundaries, posing a risk of road run-offs and collisions with hidden objects.

Erie Insurance and ISO (Insurance Services Office), a leading source of information about property/casualty insurance risk, recommend the following tips to help keep you safe.

Drivers

You might have to plow dozens of driveways and parking lots. To get ready, be sure to:

  • Watch the weather reports and anticipate when conditions are likely to demand your work. Be sure you are well rested and prepared, especially if you need to start working very early in the morning.
  • Be very familiar with the way the equipment operates. Review the user’s manual for the equipment thoroughly. If you’re an experienced driver, share your knowledge of operations and problems with other members of the crew.
  • Get to know the property where you will be working. This should include reviewing a site plan for snowplow trucks and knowing how to treat the property for ice. 
  • Dress for the weather. While the truck cab may be quite comfortable, you never know when you might need to get out of the vehicle, such as to put on tire chains. Wear footwear designed to increased traction and help prevent slips and falls. A spare pair of gloves can also be handy if the first pair gets soaked.

Vehicles

Is your vehicle ready? Remember to:

  • Thoroughly check the vehicle and snowplow equipment before going on duty. This pre-trip inspection should include all fluid levels, brakes, tire pressure, lights, windshield wipers and the defroster. You should also check the operation of the de-icing equipment and the plow for things like loose or cracked bolts and hydraulic system leaks.
  • Inspect the deicing equipment to assure that it is working properly. When inclement weather is expected, deicing materials should be covered overnight to help assure that they don’t compact in the dump bed. Ideally, you should garage the vehicles containing deicing materials when not in use.
  • Check your lights. Visibility of the vehicle is critical. Snowplows should be equipped with lights that illuminate over the top edge of the plow to maximize your vision in front of the vehicle. To aid other drivers and pedestrians, place additional lights, such as a strobe light, on top of the vehicle. While you’re plowing, activate the four-way flashers. Vehicles should be equipped with back-up alarms as well.

It’s also important to take time out to train. Through training, you will learn all aspects of snow removal as well as how to minimize injuries. Training is available from the Snow and Ice Management Association. For information, go to www.sima.org.

Erie Insurance offers property and liability coverage for small commercial contractors, including landscapers, who offer snow removal services in the winter, or other private snowplowing businesses.

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