Snow removal crews grapple with COVID-19

You can now add snow removal to the long list of things that have had to change because of COVID-19.

“This year, what makes it different than many other years, is the threat of COVID and really the concern of just keeping the employees safe, keeping them distanced enough to where they can do their work but also go home safely,” said Jeremy Hassan, the chief operating engineer for Arlington County’s Water, Sewer, and Streets Bureau.

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It’s no easy task. In Arlington, for instance, Hassan said they might have up to 45 plow drivers per shift. That means that during a shift change, you could potentially have 90 drivers in the same tight quarters, something you can no longer do.

So instead, they’re now conducting training in smaller groups. They’ve gotten rid of big, in-person meetings at the start of a shift and have replaced them with much smaller, socially-distant groups. Also, each truck is loaded with PPE, gets disinfected between shifts, and they’ve made other changes too.

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It’s a similar story in neighboring D.C. Officials there said the District Snow Team will now be outfitted with masks, neck gators, and hand sanitizer, they’ve installed handwashing stations, and they’ve increased the number of staging yards they’re using. The staging yard is where drivers pick-up their equipment, so now, they’re more spread out.

“It impacts everything. Not just them plowing, per se. It’s just, coming into the buildings, how do they interact to get a map and keys to a vehicle now? Or sanitation of vehicles. You’re in a truck for 12 hours,” Hassan explained. “We literally have guys here that have been doing this for 31, 32 years. This is going to be new to them as well.”

Hassan said people in Arlington should expect to see trucks out spreading brine starting Tuesday morning.

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