Safety Corner: Snow shoveling safety tps

  • Published
  • By Rod Krause
  • 5th Bomb Wing Ground Safety
Shoveling snow... everybody probably loves doing it as much as me, right? Not really. However it is one of those things the majority of us with at least one winter season here at Minot has to do.
Every winter people hurt themselves shoveling snow, ranging from minor ache and pulled muscles particularly in the back and shoulders to fatal heart attacks. What people often fail to realize is that shoveling is more than just a chore, it puts a lot of stress on the body in a short period of time.

While shoveling snow can be good exercise, it can also be dangerous for shovelers who take on more than they can handle. The National Safety Council offers tips to help get a handle on safe shoveling.

Before shoveing, stretch out and warm up.  Dress warmly and remember extremities, such as the nose, ears, hands and feet, need extra attention during winter's cold.  Appropriate attire may include a turtleneck sweater, cap, scarf, face protection, mittens, wool socks and waterproof boots.

Individuals over the age of 40, or those who are relatively inactive, should be especially careful. Anyone with a history of heart trouble should not shovel without a doctor's permission.

Do not shovel after eating or while smoking, and take it slow. Shoveling, like lifting weights, can raise both the heart rate and blood pressure dramatically; so pace is important.
Shovel only fresh snow. Freshly fallen, powdery snow is easier to shovel than the wet, packed-down snow.  The best technique is to push the snow rather than lifting the snow out of the way.  Don't pick up too much at once, and use a small shovel, or fill only one-fourth or one-half of a large one. 

While shoveling, the proper posture is to lift with the legs bent, keeping the back straight. Bending and "sitting" into the movement keeps the spine upright and less stressed, and the shoulders, torso and thighs can do the work.

Finally, do not work to the point of exhaustion. If you run out of breath, take a break. If you feel tightness in your chest, stop immediately.  If it's smarter not to try to tackle this task, it may be prudent to hire a neighborhood kid to do the work, or have a contractor plow it.