Safe operating procedures for snow pusher operators & equipment
by Randy Strait
December 1, 2016

Long work hours, heavy snowfall and icy road conditions comprise snow season at its finest. As many snow and ice removal contractors know, this high-stress environment creates a slippery slope of potential injuries, equipment damage and lawsuits. The following pusher practices and features keep the operator, equipment and property safe and sound.

Smooth & Safe Operator

Always conduct a pre-trip inspection of the snow pusher and carrier machine to ensure that everything meets standards and functions properly. Perform proper servicing to the carrier machine, double-checking for correct oil levels and tire inflation. Operators should reference manufacturers’ online resources for proper operation of the carrier, model’s positioning, plowing angle, appropriate snow stacking techniques and the pusher attachment. Improper operation can prematurely wear pusher parts. When operators can easily handle the pusher, it increases confidence and focus. This contributes to safe operation and reduces operational mistakes and potential damage.

Overcoming Obstacles

How pusher components react to outside hazards plays a large role in keeping a contractor safe and the customer’s property unscathed. Some manufacturers design pushers to protect the operator and withstand harsh impacts with obstacles, while creating less damage to property. A pusher with a sectional moldboard, spring-loaded trip edges and mechanical side panels will lift up and over raised objects. If a one-piece, rigid pusher with nonmoving components collides with an unexpected obstacle, the impact will quickly stop the entire unit and can throw the operator forward, resulting in possible injury. Hard jolts like this can also cause cracks in the arms of the carrier equipment. Should an operator hit a hidden curb, some pusher designs feature mounting blocks that can absorb the impact and pressure. Mounting blocks protect the carrier’s bushings, hydraulic system, transmission and motor. Those blocks can be replaced for considerably less money than replacing a damaged carrier.

Next, to increase safety, contractors can take steps to evaluate their contracted property before the first snowfall. Contractors should note obstacles in the work area. Snow removal companies can spend thousands of dollars each year repairing damage done to curbing, parking lots and streets that have been hit by rigid, fixed-side panels that don’t adjust to hidden obstacles. If damage does occur, it’s best to document it right away. Take photos and communicate with property managers quickly to make arrangements for repairs and handling traffic flow. Mark the obstacle with cones so it is visible to drivers.

Safety & Responsibility

Each year, ice brings safety and liability concerns—especially because lawsuits for slip-and-fall claims can top $2.5 million. The snow pusher’s lot-cleaning results go a long way in keeping customers safe and preventing liability issues. Typically, the responsibility for clearing the lot of all snow and ice falls solely on the contractor, making it extra important to properly remove snow and ice quickly and on the first attempt. A steel edge on the right pusher will scrape even hard-packed snow and ice down to the pavement, reducing the need to salt after and increasing safety for customers.

Remember Simple Safety

While it may sound simple, some of the most basic safety measures can be the first forgotten during the hectic snow season.

Prevent the danger of cold exposure by always wearing and bringing extra warm clothing, especially if the operator needs to shovel or in case of a breakdown. Wear high-visibility clothing, and make sure to follow all requirements from local OSHA regulations. Carry a phone and charger or a quick-charge battery attachment to ensure emergency services can be quickly contacted, if needed. Wear the proper harnesses, seatbelts and lap belts, and always drive at safe speeds. When transporting multiple pushers, contractors need to acquire width permits and hired vehicle escorts to lead the way behind and in front of the trailered pushers. For the carrier equipment, contractors need to get the proper insurances and registration from the state. Taking the proper transportation actions saves businesses from future fines and prevents accidents.

Additionally, use the proper tools for unhooking or hooking the pusher from the carrier equipment. Always make sure the pusher is secure before use.

All in all, if contractors make sure to review all aspects of their operation, they can make changes before they sacrifice safety during the busy season.