It is that time of year where fresh, sparkling snow covers our driveways and sidewalks. While beautiful, it is also a nuisance that needs to be cleared. Those of you fortunate enough to have snow blowers will make an easy job of clean up. But for those who do not have a snow blower, or have hard to reach areas where only shovels will go, use the following tips to stay safe:
Prepare: Cold muscles are easier to injure, so it is a good idea to spend a few minutes warming up your body before going outside to do physical work. March in place, stretch, or do jumping jacks to loosen up muscles. Make sure you are dressed for the occasion. Wear warm layers of clothing, a warm hat, thick gloves with grips and waterproof boots to stay as warm. Salt or sand the area you will be working to give yourself as much traction as possible.
Shovel: The ideal shovel would be ergonomic with a curved handle to reduce the amount of bending involved. It should be adjustable to your height. Plastic blades are lighter and easier to carry than metal blades. While it may seem counterintuitive, having a smaller blade means lighter loads to carry which is less taxing on the body. Make sure your shovel is sturdy enough to handle the job and has no loose parts.
Technique: Shovel grip is very important. Proper grip and technique makes shoveling less taxing on the body. One hand should be near the blade and the other should be on the handle. Hands should be at least a foot apart to help with stability and lessening injuries. When possible, push the snow instead of lifting it. Some shovels are designed specifically for this task. If you have to lift and throw snow, face your load, squaring off shoulders and hips. Bend at your hips, not your back, and lift with your legs, keeping your back straight. Walk over to where the snow will be deposited and dump, rather than throwing it over a shoulder. You should avoid twisting or pivoting if at all possible. Spraying the shovel with some sort of lubricant before starting will help snow to slide right off of the shovel.
As with any physical labor, take breaks as needed and pace yourself. If you feel pain, stop working right away.
Abitol, MD, Jean-Jacques. “Tips for Snow Shoveling: How to Avoid Back Pain.”
Schubbe, DC, Peter. “Snow Shoveling Techniques to Prevent Low Back Injuries.”