Safe Ways to Shovel Snow

January 24, 2014
by Michael Barber
Safe Ways to Shovel Snow

Emergency departments and urgent care centers are full of enthusiastic folks that tackle snow shoveling the wrong way.  Before you grab your coat and head out to rid your sidewalks and walkways of all that winter white, there are some things to keep in mind to ensure you aren’t injured while shoveling.

Age and Health Matters

The National Safety Council says if you are over 40 years of age and are relatively inactive, you should be “especially careful.” Those with heart conditions should ask their physicians if snow shoveling is an activity they can perform.

Because all that bending, lifting and scooping can be strenuous, if your health is poor, avoid the activity altogether and seek out a friend or family member to do the job. Otherwise, you may end up in a retail clinic that offers emergency care.

How You Shovel Is Important

Some of the ways to avoid back and other muscle injuries when shoveling snow include:

  • Don’t pick up large amounts of snow at one time.
  • Bend at the knees with your back straight while shoveling.
  • Shovel snow when it’s fresh and newly fallen -- it’s easier to move.
  • Push snow into piles if you can instead of lifting.
  • Don’t keep shoveling if you feel exhaustion setting in.

Shoveling the right way will lessen the chance you’ll need to seek out help from an urgent care clinic.

Plan Your Snow Attack

Clearing your car, sidewalk and driveway after snowfall are must dos but before you begin, develop a snow removal plan.

Popular Mechanics offers a good plan outline:

  • Determine the exact location you want the snow to go before you start shoveling.
  • When seeking a location, make sure it’s the shortest distance you can find.
  • Work in small areas and push snow to the final destination. 
  • Don’t let piles get too high -- head to the finish point and level off the top.
  • Clean cars off first so you don’t have to go back and shovel cleared driveways again.
  • Rest frequently, especially if you have a big job ahead of you.
  • Consider asking family members or friends to help.

Remember, you don’t have to make it perfect and overdoing could land you at a retail clinic where family care doctors may have to treat you for exhaustion or injuries.

Use Shoveling to Exercise

Those who exercise frequently can skip a trip to the gym or a daily workout by participating in snow removal.  Shoveling not only burns a lot of calories, it’s also a great cardio activity. Even the best athletes can still get injured while snow shoveling. Spine-Health offers tips on how to remove snow including posture tips and using the right equipment.

Consider Snow Removal Equipment

If you have large areas to deal with, you may want to invest in a snow blower. Those with ATVs may consider attaching a plow to the front to clear long driveways or roads.

If you do buy or install snow removal equipment, make sure you follow the instructions on using machinery and keep the equipment maintained.

Snow is beautiful when it’s falling and the blanket it leaves behind is breathtaking. Shoveling, however, is something many of us must do depending on where we live. Stay safe by practicing these tips and you’ll avoid injury and the job will flow as planned.