Shovel handle with snow background

Shoveling Safety Tips

DF Safety Environmental Hazards, Health and Safety Tips, Personal Safety Guide

Today’s blog features a personal story from Dave Ferro. Please read to the end to read his words. 

Man shoveling snow in winter

In Alberta, Canada, we are all too familiar with our car buried under a mound of snow first thing in the morning, coming home after work, and sometimes even after running some errands. Any time of the day really… 

Nice and sunny one day, the next you’re driving to work in a snowstorm (unless you have a cool boss like mine, who lets you work and write blogs from home. Yes, this blog is being written from home).

As we know, more snow means more of that dreaded S-word we are all too familiar with. You guessed it, shoveling.  

Snow and ice can cause potential injury for you and others. As a homeowner, it is your responsibility to make a reasonable effort to ensure public walking areas around your property are clear of snow and ice.  

Shoveling can lead to health risks, such as back injuries and heart attacks. When combining the cold temperatures and physical exertion, the workload on the heart increases. This can be a risk factor for a heart attack. 

According to the American Heart Association, even walking through heavy, wet snow can place strain on your heart. 

A national study found that the most common shoveling-related injuries were to the lower back.  

Cardiac-related injuries account for only 7% of all injuries, but they were the most serious in nature. 

Even though shoveling is a dreaded task for most, it still must get done. 

Shoveling Safety Tips

  • Warm up – Start with light movements to get the blood flowing, this can prevent muscle strain and injury. 
  • Push rather than lift – Pushing instead of lifting reduces strain on the body. At times lifting cannot be avoided. Bend your knees and use your legs instead of your back. 
  • Shovel choice – Choose an ergonomic, light, and either a plastic or wooden shovel. This type helps decrease the bend required, will not retain cold like metal, and will not strain your muscles.  
  • Pace yourself – Don’t rush and take breaks often. Consider taking a break every 20 minutes, especially if you are working with wet snow. 
  • PPE – Layer up and keep warm. Wear the right clothing for the conditions. The layer closest to your body should be a fabric that doesn’t retain sweat, instead, pushing it away. Frostbite is another potential risk factor, so gloves and a toque would be appropriate. 
  • Stay hydrated

As we have months of winter ahead and many driveways to shovel, these helpful tips ensure you get the job done safely and efficiently.  

Have a great week! 

Afterthought – Written by Dave Ferro

When Alyssa ran this blog post past my desk for editing, I was touched by the timeliness of the subject as there was a death in my extended family this week related to snow shoveling, and we are in a time of grieving.   

Please don’t dismiss this as just another safety talk and forget about it.  Please internalize the lesson and take appropriate steps.  If you are not in top physical condition or have health conditions, please get assistance, or at the very least go very slowly, pace yourself! Rome was not built in a day and if it takes a half dozen sessions to clear your snow, that is not an issue!   

If you are young and healthy or have access to a snowblower, please consider your neighbours that do not have these advantages. Help each other out! Be good to each other.   

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