Shovel Smart this Winter

DF SafetyHealth and Safety Tips

It’s hard to believe the weather we enjoyed throughout December! However, winter certainly made its arrival known once January arrived. With extreme cold, and snow finally falling, we were all quickly reminded what winter is really like here in Alberta.

With the arrival of snow, and more to likely come, we want to chat about shovelling safety. With any kind of physical activity that involves snow, ice, and slippery surfaces, there are certain precautions to follow. We want to make sure that everyone stays as safe as possible while clearing your sidewalks and driveway, so let’s go over a few things to keep in mind clearing the snow.  

Dress appropriately 

The first step to getting your pathways clear for yourself, and for others, is to make sure you are dressed warmly before heading outside. It is best to dress in light layers, and preferably wear moisture wicking material to help stay dry and warm.   

Your ears and face should be properly covered, especially when the windchill is extreme. Frostbite can occur in as little as ten minutes (depending on the temperature) so don’t leave your skin uncovered. Well-fitting gloves that are easy to shovel in are key. If you have some portable warmers to slip inside of your gloves, your fingers will thank you!

 Of course, don’t forget to put on proper winter footwear. Your boots should have good grip, be well insulated, and comfortable. 

Use proper technique  

When shovelling snow, especially after a large amount has fallen, you want to use proper technique. Remember is to push the snow whenever possible, rather than lift. When lifting becomes a necessity, make sure to bend with your knees and use your legs, not your back. Try to move the snow in small increments, rather than all at once to avoid lifting too heavy of a load. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety also recommends using a proper shovel that is light but sturdy, is the proper length, has a shaft with a bend rather than a straight style, has a “D” shape handle, and has the appropriate blade size and shape.

Avoid twisting your body, and don’t be afraid to take a few breaks in between as needed. If there has been a heavy snow fall, you might want to consider doing bits and pieces throughout the day, rather than all at once. This way, there is less strain on your body.  

It’s also a good idea to warm your body up before heading outdoors. Take a few minutes and stretch, just as you would before exercising, to get your body ready for the task ahead. 

Listen to your body  

If you have certain health conditions, make sure to listen to your body and not push yourself too hard. Shovelling heavy snow can be stressful to the heart so, if at any time, you experience the following: discomfort or heaviness in your chest, arms, or neck, shortness of breath which seems out of the ordinary, dizziness, or excessive sweating, be sure to stop immediately and call 9-1-1. 

If possible, consider hiring someone for snow removal. There are many reputable companies available and, often, kids around your neighbourhood are looking to put a little extra cash in their pockets during the winter months.

 Shovelling in Alberta is inevitable, so we hope these tips make the job a little easier. Since snow is such a major part of our long winters, investing in a snow blower may be something to think about. 

Happy shovelling and stay safe out there!