January 27, 2011

Snow Safety Tips

Posted in Health and Wellness, Safety, Winter Safety tagged , , , , , , at 9:37 PM by Rockin' Rita

I live in New Jersey just over the bridge from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and overnight we just got slammed with a huge storm. It started as rain then changed to snow then back to rain then to sleet then back to snow. We got at least a foot of snow by time it stopped early this morning. With all this snow all over the country I thought it’d be good to post some tips to help keep you safe and healthy while you shovel out.

You don’t necessarily think of shoveling as a hazardous activity but it can actually be quite dangerous, even deadly, if you don’t take precautions to protect yourself. Now, you wouldn’t think shoveling snow would need a lot of thinking-but a cubic foot of slushy snow can weigh almost as much as a cubic foot of water (62 lbs). Needless to say, it can get quite heavy! Even worse, each year we hear about people who’ve had heart attacks or strokes while shoveling snow.


  • shovel at a slow, steady pace
  • move small amounts of snow at a time and take frequent breaks
  • drink water, sports drinks, or non-caffeinated tea often
  • wear a supportive back belt (the kind that work men wear and can be purchased at any home improvement/hardware store) so that you don’t throw your back out, especially if you have a history of back injuries
  • wear boots or other work shoes that have extremely good traction to prevent slippage (and keep your feet dry)
  • warm up your body and muscles. Try walking on the spot for a couple of minutes and doing some slow stretching (torso twists and knee bends).
  • dress warm and try to cover all exposed skin. On a really cold winter day, the wind can freeze exposed skin in just a few minutes and cause frostbite.
  • Get shovels that are a good fit for you. You can get scrapers that range from 18 inches all the way up to 36 inches.  The length is correct when you can slightly bend your knees, flex your back 10 degrees or less, and hold the shovel comfortably in your hands at the start of the “shoveling stroke”.
  • Bend your knees and avoid using twisting and turning movements when shoveling.
  • Push the snow, do not lift it. Pushing puts far less strain on the spine than lifting.
  • If you must lift snow, use the strength in your arms and legs to lift while keeping your back straight. Lifting snow is just like lifting any other heavy object-and proper lifting and turning techniques are essential.
  • Consider using two shovels to clear your snow. One should be a lightweight pusher/scraper to move the snow off to the sides, and the other, a lightweight plastic or aluminum snow shovel to lift the snow.
  • Be sure that your shovel has a curved handle, as this enables you to keep your back straighter when shoveling.
  • A plastic shovel blade will generally be lighter than a metal one, thus putting less strain on your spine.
  • Sometimes, a smaller blade is better than a larger blade. Although a small blade can’t shovel as much, it avoids the risk of trying to pick up a too heavy pile of snow with a larger blade.
  • DON’T shovel if (1) you are pregnant, (2) you have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, or respiratory problems, (3) if you are a senior, (4)  someone who does not get a great deal of exercise, or (5) you are experiencing low back or neck pain.
  • DON’T let the snow pile up in your drive. If there is a blizzard, you obviously can’t do anything about the accumulation
  • DON’T continue if  you experience pain of any kind. Stop immediately and seek help.
  • DON’T use heat on an injury right away. Wait 24 hours. In the mean time, use ice and pain relievers.
  • DON’T overdress. You’ll dehydrate faster if you are sweating during an already strenuous activity.


  1. How to Stay Safe While Shoveling Snow
  2. Tips for Snow Shoveling: How to Avoid Back Pain
  3. How to Shovel Snow Safely
  4. In The Bleak Mid-winter: 10 Tips for Safe Snow Shoveling
  5. Safe shoveling tips

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