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How To Shovel Snow

how to shovel snow
Dec 10 2021 3 min read

Winter is a time for cozy nights in, holidays with loved ones and all the outdoor activities we Canadians love like skiing, sledding and ice skating.

In short, winter is a beautiful season.

Yet it’s not always a wonderland for those who are dealing with shoveling snow.

According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, during winter months around 1/3 of male heart attacks occur the day after a snowfall. While the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety have studies that connect shoveling snow with an increased risk of back and neck injury.

With some municipalities in southern Ontario starting to enforce snow clearing by-laws more aggressively, like Lincoln’s renewed efforts, we may all be shoveling a little extra snow this year.

 

WHY IS SNOW SHOVELING SO CLOSELY LINKED TO NEGATIVE HEALTH OUTCOMES?

You’re probably thinking the answer is simple. Snow is heavy, lifting heavy things often results in physical pain.

While it’s partially just that simple, there are a couple of other reasons that may be interesting to learn.

THE COLD INCREASES THE RISK

Colder temperatures can increase your heart rate and blood pressure which can cause blood to clot more easily, constricting arteries and decreasing your blood supply. (4)

Anyone over the age of 40 who are relatively inactive should be particularly careful when shoveling snow.

IT’S OFTEN AN UNEXPECTED TASK

While we do not have specific data to back this up, we’re going to assume the % of injuries while shoveling snow may be higher than the % of injuries during weight lifting.

Both activities involve lifting heavy things so why would we think there’s a difference?

While weight lifting is a planned activity that people prepare for (proper attire, adequate warm-up) the same cannot always be said for shoveling snow.

When we’re rushing through the task in the morning before heading for work we’re not always concerned with doing it safely, just doing it faster.

HOW TO SHOVEL SNOW SAFELY

In general, a good rule of thumb is to treat shovelling snow like the physically demanding task that it is.

WARM-UP

Warm-up and stretch your muscles before heading outside to shovel.

This can be as simple as walking around, bending side to side and doing some light movements to get the blood flowing.

DRESS PROPERLY

Take a couple of extra minutes to change into your winter weather gear before heading outside.

We already tend to rush through the job, wanting to get back inside as quickly as possible, there’s no need to tip the scales even further by being cold and under dressed.

Dressing in layers also means you can peel one off if needed when you’re deep into the job getting warm and sweaty. Don’t forget to wear proper footwear as this is also the best way to prevent a slip and fall injury.

CHOOSE YOUR SHOVEL WISELY

An ergonomically designed shovel can help reduce the amount of bending you do and help you strain less.

Memorial University recommends a shovel that’s lightweight yet durable (a little over 3 LBs) and long enough that the shovel is elbow height when standing upright.

PUSH, DON’T LIFT

As often as possible, avoid making gravity the enemy by pushing the snow along the ground rather than lifting it into the air.

If you must lift it, make sure to bend at the knees and use your legs to avoid adding unnecessary strain on your back or neck.

BE STRATEGIC

When a lot of snow is expected it may be a good idea to consider shoveling periodically as it’s coming down to avoid letting it pile up too high.

If not that, then try and do it as soon as possible after it’s done falling. Fresh snow is usually lighter and fluffier compared to the snow that’s had a chance to partially melt.

No matter what your plan of attack is, one thing you should always do is pace yourself.

Take a break every 20 minutes during the larger jobs and break it off into chunks by doing the sidewalks in one round and then the driveway in another.

STAY HYDRATED

You will get tired, you will sweat. Drink plenty of water before, during and after the job to stay hydrated.

We hope you take some of these tips to heart. Remember, if you feel you’re someone that may be at increased risk from taking on the job yourself; get someone else to do it.

Trade jobs with a friendly neighbour, put your kids to work or hire a professional snow removal company to take it on.

Only do what you can within your limit.

Erie Mutual Insurance proudly serves the commercial insurance, farm insurance, home insurance and auto insurance needs of members throughout Southern Ontario including Haldimand, Niagara and Hamilton.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have about this or any other topic related to your insurance.

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SOURCES

1 – CMAJ.ca
2 – CCOHS.ca
3 – MUN.ca
4 – Mayo Clinic

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Please contact us with any questions you may have about this or any other topic related to your insurance.

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