Winter is here, and snow and ice become an inevitable part of farming. Since the most significant snowstorms occur in January, February and early March, there’s still time to prepare for the season.
First, make sure all employees are aware of any plans that are established, and require attendance at any meetings that provide information and instruction on snow and ice procedures.
Create a plan that prioritizes clearing for essential areas of the farm, including calf housing, feed access, lanes for equipment and milk trucks and driveways to access the farm. The plan should include clear access to all entrances and cow travel areas, and make sure there is a way to manage manure in the event of a heavy snowfall. Assign employees to each area and task so that there’s no question about who does what in the event of a storm. The plan should include some flexibility and backup workers in the event that some employees cannot reach the farm.
Make sure all equipment that will be used for moving snow is serviced and ready for use. Since there’s a good chance some snow handling will take place at night, make sure the lights on all vehicles are fully functional.
In the event of a wet, heavy snow that accumulates on rooftops, removal may become necessary to prevent building collapse. Workers assigned to remove snow from roofs should be trained and aware of the hazards prior to a weather event that requires working on a roof. Fall protection is essential for everyone working on a roof, and workers should be familiar with how to use such equipment properly and safely.
Prior to a snow event that might result in wet, heavy snow, instruct workers on proper use of ladders. Determine where to place ladders for the safest access to the roof. Workers should be aware that ladder rungs could quickly accumulate snow and ice, creating an additional fall hazard. Boots should be cleaned of snow prior to mounting the ladder. Safe ladder climbing includes maintaining three contact points at all times: two feet and one hand alternating with two hands and one foot.
Any ladders that will be used to access rooftops should be in good condition and in place prior to a storm. Be sure workers are aware of the potential hazards such as slipping and/or falling while using a ladder, possible entrapment in snow after a fall, and shock or electrocution as a result of contact with power lines or damaged extension cords. Workers should be aware of how to work safely while on a ladder, including keeping their body within the ladder rails and no leaning or reaching that places their body beyond the rails. Workers should not attempt to carry equipment such as snow rakes while climbing a ladder – instead, they should climb the ladder then pull the equipment up with a rope.
Snow should be removed uniformly from the roof to avoid causing an unbalanced load on the roof. Remove snow in a pattern that avoids the formation of snow piles on the roof, which have the potential to create an uneven, heavy load in a concentrated area.
Workers who remain on the ground during snow removal should be aware of the hazards of heavy loads of snow coming down. Establish a safe work zone around the base of the building and don’t allow anyone within 20’ of where snow will fall. Workers using snow rakes or drag lines on the ground should wear eye and head protection.
Farms that have aerial lifts can use such equipment to remove snow and ice from roofs, but it’s important that workers are properly trained in the use of such equipment. The lift operator should be fully aware of all safety measures, including not overriding any hydraulic, electrical or mechanical safety devices and ensuring that the workers being carried in the lift are properly positioned and equipped with a body harness or restraining belt attached to the basket. The lift operator should be aware of load limits, and not allow workers to stand on the lift railing.
In some cases, snow removal from roofs can be accomplished with mechanized equipment such as snow blowers. However, this is an extremely hazardous operation and should only be done if all workers are aware of safe operating procedures. Workers should wear eye and head protection, and any equipment (snow blower, rake) should be moved to the roof using a winch, lift or pull rope. Power equipment should not be used near the edge of a roof – read the snow blower manual for the recommended safe distance from the edge. Be aware that the roof will likely be slippery, and operating a snow blower on a slanted, slippery surface poses additional hazards.
Snow blowers should be used at reduced speeds for additional safety, but this can lead to the accumulation of heavy, wet snow in the mechanism. Be sure workers are aware of how to safely remove such accumulations without risking amputation.
Always be aware a roof can collapse at any moment, and have a path to safety in the case of imminent collapse. Workers should not be allowed to enter a building that is under snow stress or that has started to collapse. Livestock should be removed from buildings as soon as there is even a slight chance that the roof may collapse.
Heavy snow often results in compromised or downed power lines, so instruct all workers to be aware of this hazard. All power lines, cords and wires should be treated as if they are live, even if power to the farm is out. Keep a safe distance of at least 10’ from all power lines. Workers using snow rakes, drag lines or in aerial lifts should be aware of maintaining a 10’ distance from power lines.
Moving feed, manure and other essential operations that take place regularly should be done carefully and without rushing. Something as simple as entering the cab of a tractor or pushing manure in a loafing area can become extremely hazardous with just a little snow or ice. Instruct employees to work carefully and mindfully, and allow for rest breaks to avoid tired workers who may pose an additional safety hazard to themselves and others.