ASSE Offers Tips to Avoid Snowplow Mishaps

November 29, 2004

While snowplows keep roads clear of snow and ice, it is important for motorists and snowplows to drive cautiously to avoid fatal hazards.

Therefore and in light of the fact that transportation crashes continue to be the number one cause of on-the-job deaths, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is offering several safety tips for motorists and snowplow operators to consider before hitting the road.

“The most frequent type of collisions involving snowplows occur when other drivers rear end the snowplow or strike it when passing,” according to ASSE member Joann Robertson, coordinator of Risk Management Services for Wright Risk Management Company Inc., New York. “Motorists often misjudge the speed and size of a snowplow. They can drive too close or enter a snowplow’s blind spot to pass by, possibly resulting into a fatal crash.

“Motorists are often unfamiliar with the hazards their actions may pose to snowplow operators,” Robertson said. “Obviously, other motorists may be too fast and impatient, which leads to tailgating or improper passing, causing accidents to occur – endangering the lives of the snowplow driver, the motorist, their passengers and others on the roadway.”

To prevent these accidents from occurring, ASSE advises motorists to never assume the speed a snowplow is traveling. In addition, snowplow operators should frequently check mirrors for oncoming cars as a cautionary measure.

Motorists can incorrectly assume the speed and size of a snowplow, Robertson states, and recommends that snow removal companies train operators to check items such as plowing attachments, chains, pins, connections and spreaders before operating the snowplow. In addition, Robertson reminds operators to use a three-point grip – using feet and one hand or both hands and one foot – when entering and exiting the cab of a snowplow. Jumping from or onto a snowplow increases the driver’s chances of being injured.

Also, snowplow drivers should have open communication with each other about their routes. It’s important to discuss bridges, sharp turns, hills and other hazards on the roads. Robertson advises snowplow drivers to be attentive and understand the dangers of the storm while snowplowing.

“Make sure your staff is aware that wet snow can weigh up to 12 pounds per cubic feet. Accumulation will quickly be too difficult to remove if drivers are not plowing with the storm,” Robertson said.
ASSE suggests snowplow drivers do the following while clearing the roads:

· Be very familiar with the snowplow operation. Learn the acceleration and steering before the first storm hits.
· Clear out any trash or loose items inside the cab of a snowplow, as they can roll around and distract drivers.
· Drivers should scan the sides of the road about 12-15 seconds ahead, watching out for sudden hazards such as pedestrians, stranded cars, animals and disabled vehicles.
· Always carry an emergency kit.
Snowplow drivers should review their Commercial Drivers License (CDL) manual or contact their local or state government officials for information about vehicle pre-trip inspections.

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