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You can't do anything about the weather except try to stay safe

The Times Union reported last week that the Albany airport has had more than 70 inches of snow during February. Snow is up, but temperatures have been in the cellar. This may be the second coldest February on record.

The weather has been bad, and the costs of dealing with it are climbing -- and not just the costs of plowing and treating the roads and the cost of keeping ourselves warm. There has been a human cost, too. In one sad example, the area recently lost a community leader in the kind of accident that could happen to any homeowner.

Brian F. Howard served as superintendent of schools in a number of different districts during his long career. On a windy day last week, Howard, 65-years-old and retired, climbed a ladder two stories to clear the snow from his roof. No one was home at the time. When his wife returned from running errands, she found him lying in the driveway with a serious head injury. He died later that day.

While the details of what happened really cannot be known, what we do know is that roofs collapse from the weight of snow. Ice dams can cause tremendous damage to a home, both outside and in. It is only natural for a homeowner to do what he can to protect his property.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a few suggestions for how to reduce the risk of an injury or death when dealing with snow and ice build-ups on roofs.

At the top of the list is to hire a contractor that specializes in this kind of work. You can also try to clear the roof from the ground using an extendable snow rake. If you must climb a ladder, though:

  • Buddy up with your spouse or a neighbor.
  • Make sure your ladder is leaning against the building and not the snow pile or ice dam.
  • Extend the ladder above the roof edge by at least 3 feet. Ladder rail extensions can work, too.
  • Make sure your boots or shoes are free of snow and ice when you climb the ladder.
  • Do not use a snow rake or shovel while standing on the ladder.
  • When you are on the ladder, always keep both feet and one hand on it.

Stay safe. Spring really is on the way.

Source: Times Union, "Ex-school superintendent dies in fall from ladder," Bob Gardinier, Feb. 20, 2015

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