Shoveling snow can be more than a chore;
it can be a health hazard if you don't take some basic precautions,
warns the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA).
Back injuries, muscle strains, hypothermia
and heart attack are among the potential dangers. The CPA offers
the following advice for safe shoveling:
- Before you start shoveling, take
time to warm up and stretch your muscles. Warm, relaxed muscles
are less likely to suffer strains than cold, tight muscles.
- Choose the right shovel. A shovel's
handle length is right for you when you can slightly bend your
knees, bend forward 10 degrees or less, and hold the shovel comfortably
in your hands as you begin a shovel stroke. A plastic shovel blade
is lighter than a metal one, so it puts less strain on your back.
Ergonomic shovels with a bent shaft are better than straight shaft
- When you hold the shovel, keep
your hands at least 12 inches apart. This increases your leverage
and reduces the strain on your body.
- When you lift snow, squat with
your legs apart, bend your knees and keep your back straight.
Make sure to lift with your legs and don't bend at the waist.
Scoop up small amounts of snow and walk to where you want to dump
it. Spraying a lubricant or silicone on your shovel will help
prevent snow from clinging to it.
- Step in the direction that you're
throwing the snow. This will prevent twisting in your low back.
- If there's heavy snow, tackle it
in two stages. First, skim off the top layer and then remove the
bottom layer. Don't overload your shovel. If you can't say a long
sentence in a single breath, you're working too hard. Take a break
or reduce the intensity of effort.
- Take plenty of breaks while you
shovel. Every so often, stand up straight and walk around to extend
the lower back. Place your hands on the back of your hips and
bend backwards slightly for several seconds.
- Dress properly. Wear mitts, not
gloves. Dress in layers. The inner layers of clothing should be
made of material that wicks perspiration away from your body.
Don't wear cotton. It traps moisture close to your body. Outer
layers should be windproof and water-resistant. Wear a scarf and
hat to reduce heat loss. Your footwear should have good treads
that will prevent slips or falls.
- If you have any health problems
or are in poor shape, don't shovel. Before winter, arrange for
someone to clear the snow off your driveway and sidewalks.
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management
Agency offers advice about how to prepare for winter
Reference Source 101