Technology aids in winter snow removal
Utah Department of Transportation snowplow drivers are undergoing training with state-of-the-art snowplow simulators to improve their skills and better aid Utah drivers. Additionally, continued improvements in home snow removal equipment is putting a big dent in winter injuries. The combination of these efforts is aimed at making the frigid and snow packed Utah winters a little easier to bear.
According to a web posting by Richard Beard, Agricultural Systems Technology and Education Specialist for the University of Utah's extension, hand injuries, muscle strain and overexertion are as common as Utah's winter snow. However, proper use of snow removal equipment can reduce injuries.
"Snow shoveling is the most common method of snow removal," said Beard. "Lightweight, aluminum shovels work best and long handled, square-ended shovel works well to remove ice from concrete services. Reduce strain on muscles and joints by partially filling the shovel rather than heaping it full. If you have thick crusts of ice over concrete surfaces, you may need a metal bar to break the ice and apply a chemical snow and ice melt."
Beard reports that the majority of melting compounds are formulated to not be harmful to concrete surfaces. However, because of the chemical cycle they ignite they can damage unsealed mortar, new concrete or concrete surfaces that are cracked, porous or aggregated.
Beard reminded residents it is important to read and understand all manufacturers instructions before using their product for snow removal. This reminder is expounded when individuals use power snow removal equipment.
While snowblowers add convenience to the laborious task of clearing a space of snow they also increase the risk of serious injury.
"Inexperience is a frequent cause of accidents," explained Beard. "Read the operator's manual and heed the instructions for safe operation and prevention of injuries and accidents. Remember to wear eye protection. Hearing protection should be worn if engine noise is excessive or the equipment will be operated for long periods of time."
Beard commented that, as innovations continue, newer models are equipped with more safety features and additional horsepower to aid in reducing clogging.
Areas that are to be cleaned should be removed of all debris, including hoses, tools, toys and other objects.
"Snow removal equipment can throw snow more than 20 feet and solid objects such as rocks or ice chunks can travel three times that distance," he cautioned.
Another important tip mentioned by the USU specialist for local residents to always travel up and down a slope and never across its face.
As a final warning, Beard explained that overloading snow removal equipment can be very dangerous.
The USU specialist recommended that, if snow is particularly heavy or deep, Carbon County residents should walk the machine slowly while removing a narrow strip of snow.
Removal of the heavy, deeper snow is usually handled by employees of the Utah Department of Transportation.
The state agency has initiated an innovative training simulator to improve operator decisions while driving the UDOT lows.
The simulator will aid in the maneuvering, controlling and keeping the correct position of plows while clearing snow this winter.
The equipment operators will use the machine during four hour intervals to more realistically train them for what road conditions will be this winter.
"We are excited about using this technology to help improve our operator's driving abilities," said Dave Miles, UDOT operations engineer. "Driving the snowplow is much more complicated than it looks. Anything we can do to better prepare our drivers to deal with the unique situations and conditions that arise when plowing will benefit both the driver and the public."
The simulator was created by the University of Utah and General Electric Driver Development.
The driver development at GE also offers simulation and training solutions for other transportation and law enforcement offices.
"We are pleased to partner with UDOT and the U of U in this initiative and implement our technology to the state's snowplow fleet and potentially drivers from other regions adversely affected by winter conditions," concluded business leader Brian Runkle of GE driver development.