Every year, workers are killed or seriously injured while performing snow or ice removal from rooftops and other building structures, such as decks. Workers performing snow removal operations are exposed to many serious hazards. Based on the findings of OSHA investigations, falls cause the most worker fatalities and injuries during rooftop snow removal. Workers may fall off roof edges, through skylights, and from ladders and aerial lifts. Workers may also be injured or killed by a roof collapse.

During snow removal operations from roofs, fall protection is required. Snow removal is not considered to be a roofing activity by OSHA, so if warning lines are used they must be 15’ from the roof edge. A roof monitor cannot be used during snow removal. The area on the ground where snow will be dropped needs to be effectively barricaded to keep other personnel out from under the area. The area where the snow is expected to be dropped plus 10’ should be barricaded.

Whenever possible, remove snow without getting on the roof. Snow rakes can be used on high slope roofs. Never attempt to use a snow rake or a shovel while on a ladder.

Plan Ahead for Safe Snow Removal from Roofs – Before a snow storm begins, think about what will be needed to safely remove snow from roofs surfaces:

  • Can snow be removed without workers going onto the roof?
  • Are there any hazards on the roof that might become hidden by the snow and need to be marked so that workers can see them (skylights, roof drains, vents, etc.)?
  • How should the snow be removed, based on the building’s layout, to prevent unbalanced loading?
  • What are the maximum load limits of the roof and how do they compare with the estimated total weight of snow, snow-removal equipment, and workers on the roof?
  • What tools, equipment, protective devices, clothing and footwear will workers need?
  • What type of fall protection will be used to protect workers on roofs and other elevated surfaces?
  • How will you protect people on the ground from snow and ice falling off the roof during removal operations?

Physical exertion during snow removal can also cause injuries and illnesses. Snow removal can be strenuous, particularly because cold weather can be taxing on the body, and can create the potential for exhaustion, dehydration, back injuries, or heart attacks, and can increase the risk of falls. Take steps to minimize overexertion and help prevent injuries, such as the following:

  • Scoop or push small amounts of snow at a time. Use a smaller shovel or take smaller scoops of snow if snow is wet and heavy.
  • Use proper form if lifting is necessary; keep the back straight and lift with the legs.
  • Take frequent breaks and drink fluids (avoid caffeine or alcohol).