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The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), Arlington, Virginia, and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Maryland, recently distributed guidelines to help collection workers stay safe in winter weather and reduce the risk of injury in icy and snowy conditions.

  • Wear a high-visibility safety vest to make yourself easier to see in storm conditions.
  • Wear insulated boots with good grip that provide support and traction.
  • Dress in layers consisting of a base layer (not cotton), insulating layer and a waterproof outer layer. Also wear a hat and gloves to maintain body heat.
  • Slow down. Walk carefully and cautiously. Plant your feet securely on each step and use handrails for added support when possible.
  • Anticipate ice. What appears to be a wet surface may actually be black ice.
  • Enter buildings with caution. Anticipate wet and slippery surfaces.
  • Don’t put your hands in your pockets. Use your arms and hands to maintain balance.
  • Don’t overload yourself, which could cause you to lose balance.
  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is just as big an issue in cold winter weather as it is in the summer.
  • When shoveling snow, push instead of lift. If you must lift a loaded shovel, use your legs. Consider taking smaller scoops to avoid heavy lifting.

In addition to the above safety tips, NWRA and SWANA stressed the importance for managers to hold regular safety meetings with employees to prepare for winter weather. Some of the top issues included talking with employees to recognize the dangers of slippery surfaces; emphasizing the importance of three-points of contact; and ensuring every vehicle is equipped with ice scrapers, emergency supplies and warning devices such as triangles and cones.