Snow Shoveling / Removal Safety

With the mid-west hit by snow accumulation in the middle of November, this month’s safety topic is snow shoveling safety.  National statistics are kept for most anything related to injuries and death, and snow removal is not an exception.  Here are some statistics from THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE:

1. Between 1990-2006 over 195,000 people were treated in medical emergency rooms for snow shoveling related injuries.
2. 67% of the injured people were male.
3. Children 18 and under accounted for 15% of the injuries.
4. About 7% of the emergency room visits were for cardiac related problems.
5. There were 1,647 deaths reported during this period due to snow shoveling and removal.

With Winter getting ready to start, here are some tips to help your safety whether you are removing snow from your work place entrance or your home driveway.

1. Stretch and warm up your muscles before beginning to shovel snow.  This will help you prevent muscle strains and tears – and pay particular attention to your leg and back muscles.
2. Pick a snow shoveling tool that is right for you – most experts will recommend a lightweight snow shovel that is 3 pounds or less.
3. Push the snow instead of lifting it.  If you must lift and throw the snow, put only as much snow on the shovel as you can easily lift.  This will help you and your snow shovel.
4. Bend your legs and at the waist to engage your leg and abdominal muscles.  Avoid straight up and down shoveling as this puts more stress on the back.
4. If you must throw snow, remember to turn your feet in the direction that you are throwing snow.  Twisting at the waist and throwing snow over your shoulder increases your risk of injury.
5. Take frequent breaks to rest and recover – snow shoveling can be as active as weightlifting.  Think of removing snow as a marathon rather than a sprint.
6. Dress for the weather.  Bundle up in layers of breathable clothing as snow shoveling is exercise.  Make sure your head is covered to keep your body warm.  Extra socks and good gloves help in reducing risk to frostbite in extreme cold.
7. If you are taking heart and lung medications or you are not in good physical condition, strongly consider hiring a snow removal service or hiring a neighborhood kid to do your snow shoveling.

With an early substantial snow fall already in the upper half of the country, this Winter has the potential of having as much snow as any we have seen in the last decade.  Have a plan on how you are going to remove snow and think safety when exercising your plan.

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