First, I would like to note that only in Canada would you find information specifically about safe snow shoveling practices on a government website. Most of this information was found on the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety website (www.ccohs.ca).
Unfortunately, we as Canadians tend to put off the chilly chore, procrastinating using anything, including vacuuming the whole house to avoid the cold, damp job. Then, five or ten minutes before we have to leave, we rush out the door to make way for our cars to exit the driveway so we can go on our merry way. Aside from being uncomfortable for a good portion of the day, there are other consequences to our unprepared approach to the job. Cold exposure, frostbite, fatigue, muscle strains, and low back injury are all possibilities.
So here are our tips:
To avoid exposure and frostbite – Don’t leave it to the last minute. Approach the job with proper gear on. Layer up! The base layer should be a lightweight breathable material to allow perspiration to escape so you don’t catch a chill. Cover your head, ears, hands, and feet properly. That means proper boots, not your fancy work shoes. A lot of good you are going to do when you slip and fall. When the weather is very cold, cover your mouth as well. It will make it easier on your lungs. Keep a steady pace so you don’t get cold. And most importantly, absolutely no shoveling when it is less than -40 degrees or a windy -25 to -30 degrees.
To avoid fatigue – This is pretty simple. Shovel early and often to avoid a buildup of snow. Also, know when it is too much for you to handle. If you need help, get it.
To avoid muscle strains and low back injuries – Shoveling snow is a strenuous exercise. And what do we do before we exercise? Stretch of course. Stretching can help to prevent both muscle strains and low back injuries. I know it seems silly, but it is worth it. Another good tip is to push the snow unless you must lift it. If you have to lift the snow, limit the load to what you can comfortably lift and turn your feet toward where you are throwing. Do not twist at the waist.
Our last tip it to finish up the job with a nice warm beverage!