How to Avoid Injury When Removing Snow 

 February 9, 2016

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Clearing snow in the winter is strenuous exercise that is the cause of many injuries. It can be especially dangerous for people who do not exercise on a regular basis. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2014 over 200,000 people were treated for injuries sustained as a result of shoveling snow or removing ice. Over 25,000 people were injured by using snowblowers. The most common injuries were sprains and strains, especially in the back and shoulders. Here are some tips to help you stay safe if you need to clear snow this winter.

  • Wear light, layered, water-repellent clothing that provides ventilation and insulation. Wear a hat, warm socks, gloves or mittens, and shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles.
  • Make sure you can see the area you are shoveling or snowblowing and your hat or scarf is not blocking your vision. Watch out for patches of ice and uneven surfaces.
  • Start removing snow early and do it often. Don’t wait for the end of the storm because removing a large amount of snow at once is more likely to lead to injury.
  • Clearing snow can cause stress on your heart, especially if you do not exercise regularly. If you have a medical condition or do not exercise on a regular basis, talk to your doctor before shoveling or snowblowing. You can hire someone to do it for you if you are concerned about your health.
  • Take frequent breaks while clearing snow and drink plenty of fluids. Shoveling and snowblowing are aerobic activities. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath, or other signs of a heart attack, stop and seek emergency treatment.

Snow Shoveling Tips

  • Before you start shoveling, warm up your muscles for 10 minutes with light exercise.
  • Use a shovel that is comfortable for you and is not too heavy or too long. Space your hands to give yourself leverage.
  • Try to push snow, not lift it. If you need to lift snow, squat with your legs apart, knees bent, and back straight and lift with your legs. Do not bend at your waist. Lift small amounts of snow and walk to where you want to dump it. Remove deep snow, especially if it is wet and heavy, a little at a time. Do not throw snow over your shoulder or to the side because that will require a twisting motion that can lead to injury.

Snowblower Tips

  • Always read the instruction manual before you use a snowblower. Familiarize yourself with features and safety hazards. Consult the manual before attempting to repair or maintain your snowblower.
  • Add fuel before you start the snowblower, not when the engine is running or hot. Add fuel outside, not in an enclosed area such as a garage or shed. Never use a snowblower in an enclosed area.
  • If you are using a snowblower and it jams, never stick your hand in it. Stop the engine, wait at least five seconds, and use a solid object to clear snow or debris from the chute. Be careful because the motor and blades can recoil after the snowblower has been turned off.
  • Don’t touch the engine. It can become very hot and can cause burns.
  • If your snowblower has a pull-cord, hold it firmly and stand with your feet wide apart. Do not force the cord because that can cause you to become injured.
  • If you are using an electric snowblower, be aware of the location of the cord. Make sure it does not become caught in the snowblower, get severed, or come in contact with the engine because you could get shocked.
  • Never leave a running snowblower unattended. If you need to walk away, turn it off.
  • Never remove any safety devices, shields, or guards on switches.
  • Never let children operate a snowblower. Keep children age 15 or younger away when a snowblower is in use.
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