8 Snow Shoveling Safety Tips
Snow is fun for dogs and kids who don’t have to shovel the stuff. But for middle aged guys like me, it’s a drag. And I’m sure any of you who’ve had to dig out of the snow and ice that Mother Nature has been dumping on us feel the same way. Shovelling snow is hard work, especially when the snow is wet and heavy. And if you don’t tackle this task in the same way you’d handle a hazardous job at work, you could injure your back, pull muscles, get frostbite and even suffer a heart attack.
Snow Shoveling Safety Tips
In 2007, more than 118,000 individuals in the US were treated in hospital emergency rooms, doctors’ offices and other medical offices for injuries related to snow shoveling or manual removal of ice, according to the US Consumer Products Safety Commission.
Of course, here in Canada, we also know a thing about snow shoveling and the injuries it causes. Here are some snow shovelling safety tips.
1. Don’t Shovel Snow If You’re Not Physically Fit
Shoveling snow can strain your heart and back. Try to avoid the job if you aren’t in good physical shape, are older, overweight or have a history of back or heart problems. Either hand the shovel to somebody who is fit to do it or use a snow-blower to clear the snow. Click here for snowblower safety tips.
2. Warm Up Your Muscles before You Shovel
As with any physically demanding exercise, consult with your doctor to ensure you’re fit enough to do it. Before you begin shoveling, do warm-up stretches and flexing exercises to loosen up the muscles and prepare them for the job ahead.
3. Lighten the Load with the Right Snow Shovel
A snow shovel should be lightweight, about 1.5 kg, or a little over 3 lbs, and the blade shouldn’t be too large. Otherwise your load will be too heavy, putting too much stress on your heart and back. The handle should be long enough so that you don’t have to stoop to shovel and the grip should be made of plastic or wood because metal gets too cold. As a general guideline, the shovel (blade plus handle) should be elbow height when standing upright.
4. Bundle Up When You Shovel
Wear several layers of warm lightweight clothing that’s easy and comfortable to move in. The inner layer should be fishnet or thermal underwear that allows perspiration to escape from the skin surface. Make sure your head (especially your ears), feet and hands are well covered. Your winter boots should be warm, water-resistant and high-cut, and provide good traction. Gloves should be light and flexible and give you a good grip. If it’s really cold, wear something over your mouth. And don’t shovel at all if the temperature drops below -40°C, or below -25° to -30°C when it’s windy.
5. Pace – Don’t Race
Shoveling snow in heavy-duty clothing can be as strenuous as weightlifting. You may want to get the job over with as fast as you can, but it’s better to keep moving and work at a steady pace. A good recommended rate for continuous shoveling is usually considered to be around 15 scoops per minute. Shoveling is going to make you sweat and, if you stop, you could get a chill. The trick is to shovel efficiently without becoming fatigued.
6. Push – Don’t Lift
Push the snow rather than lifting it. If you must throw it, take only as much snow as you can easily lift. And remember, the wetter the snow, the heavier it is. Consider using a snow scoop to push the snow. The scoop helps you to move snow with less effort by riding up over the snow to allow you to move it without ever having to lift it.
7. Face – Don’t Twist
Turn your feet to the direction you’re throwing. Don’t twist at the waist. Don’t throw snow over your shoulder or to the side.
8. Rest and Recover
Take frequent breaks and drink some warm non-alcoholic fluids. In extreme conditions, such as very cold and windy weather, 15 minutes of shoveling should be followed by 15 minutes of rest.
The groundhog notwithstanding, winter isn’t showing signs of loosening its grip any time soon. So heed these snow shoveling safety tips and share them with your workers.