A couple weeks ago, we covered winter slip and fall prevention and what you, as a homeowner, can do to ensure that your property is safe for your family as well as visitors. But what about your own safety while shoveling the driveway and walkways?
In 2012, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that over 34,200 people were treated for injuries sustained while shoveling snow. Snow blowers accounted for another 8,000 injuries.
Typical injuries incurred from snow removal include strains, sprains (shoulder and back), twisted ankles, cuts, finger amputations and heart attacks. Because snow removal puts a lot of stress on the back, elevates the heart rate, and raises blood pressure, it’s nothing to take lightly and should be handled with caution.
If you live a sedentary lifestyle, are over 40, or have a history of heart problems, you should consult a doctor before attempting to remove snow yourself. There’s no shame in asking for help if you don’t have your doctor’s permission or you are otherwise unable to do it. Relatives, friends, neighbors and professional snow removal services are all viable options for getting the work done without putting yourself in harm’s way.
Here’s a list of safety tips so that you can enjoy the snow, instead of nursing an injured back or spending the day in the emergency room.
Snow and Ice Removal Safety Tips
Before your shovel ever hits that first pile of powder, there are things you should do to ensure your safety first.
Dress for success
Dress warmly, paying special attention to your hands, feet, nose and ears. Don’t forget a hat, scarf, face protection, gloves, wool socks and waterproof boots.
Even out the load
The more snow on the ground, the harder it is to remove. By starting early and shoveling in short but frequent bursts you prevent buildup and lighten the overall workload.
Be sure you can see what you’re doing and that your vision is not obscured by fogged glasses, scarves or headwear. Ice, uneven ground, rocks and other debris can all cause falls or other accidents. Keep an eye out for others so that you don’t accidentally injure an approaching family member or neighbor with flung ice or snow.
Laying down a little rock salt once the walkways are cleared will keep ice from forming and provide traction for foot traffic.
Tips for Snow Shoveling
Shoveling snow places a lot of demand on your body. By staying hydrated you ensure that your body is functioning optimally.
Listen to your body
Pace yourself and never work until you are completely exhausted or run out of breath. Stop right away if you feel any tightness in your chest or other signs of a heart attack. Remember, it’s not a race.
Doing 10 minutes of mild exercise before you get started warms and prepares the muscles for the hard work ahead. When you do begin working, ease into it rather than going full steam ahead.
Make it easy on yourself
Packed snow is difficult to shovel. Stick with newly fallen snow when possible-it’s powdery and light. If you do have to dig through harder and deeper stuff do it in layers and shifts. Whenever possible, push the snow rather than lifting it. This eases the strain on your shoulders and back. Choose equipment that suits your body type. The shovel should feel comfortable when you use it (not too heavy or long). Avoid throwing snow over your shoulder-the twisting motion can injure your back.
The brunt of the work should fall on your thighs, torso and shoulders. Lift with your legs, “sitting” into the movement to keeping your back straight and your spine upright.
Tips for Snow blowing
Know your equipment
Always refresh yourself by reading the instructions on your snowblower at the beginning of the season. Snowblowers are a heavy-duty piece of machinery and are notorious for finger amputations. Take the time necessary to familiarize yourself with the owner’s manual, so that you know your equipment inside and out.
Protect your children. Children should never be allowed to operate a snowblower. Kids 15 years old and younger should not even be allowed into the area when snowblowers are in use.
Shut the engine off
Debris such as chunks of ice, sticks or rocks can easily become lodged in the chute. When this happens, shut off the snowblower and use a stick to remove the stuck object. Never try to remove these objects with your hand or while the engine is running. You should also shut off the machine when refueling, anytime you have to leave it unattended, and when in an enclosed space (people have lost their lives due to carbon monoxide poisoning from letting the machine run in their garage or shed). Know where the power cord is at all times to prevent tripping and other accidents.
Point it away
Because snowblowers can pick up rocks, ice and other debris be cognizant of the direction you point the chute so projectiles injures no one.
All the safety devices on the machine (such as guards, shields) are there for a reason, so do not remove them.
Here in Minnesota, we all know that as beautiful as our winters are, they can also be treacherous. By following the guidelines above for snow and ice safety, we hope you’ll stay safe enough to enjoy the snow, rather than be held captive by it.