Safely shovel that snow!

The snow fell hard this Christmas in the Salt Lake valley. I know that many of us here in the clinic are huge fans of snow. That means good runs for skiing and snowboarding up at the resorts and a great time building snowman and sledding for the kids!

But with every snowfall also comes the horrible duty of clearing it out of the driveway and sidewalks and entryways before we have the chance to smash it down with our car tires and feet. Smashed snow turns to ice, which leads to slipping and falling and pain everywhere.

Some of us out there are lucky and have snowblowers to help push out those sheets of snowflakes, while others, aren’t so lucky and have to rely on their trusty snow shovels (and for others, a cookie sheet, but that’s another story for another time).

The most common injuries associated with snow removal include sprains and strains, particularly in the back and shoulders, as well as lacerations and finger amputations. – AAOS

So with the help of our friends at OrthoInfo and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), we’re bringing you some tips to help prevent snow shoveling and snowblowing injuries!

For the full article, check it out here.

General tips for safe snow clearing:

More than 158,000 people (in 2015) were treated in emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, and clinics for injuries that happened while shoveling or removing ice and snow manually. – AAOS

More than 158,000 people (in 2015) were treated in emergency rooms, doctors’ offices, and clinics for injuries that happened while shoveling or removing ice and snow manually. – AAOS

Dress appropriately.

As much as I know that some people out there enjoy shoveling in board shorts and tank tops; I even know people who have a family tradition of shoveling in the least amount of clothing possible while still being “decent”. But it’s important that you dress warmly! Light, layered, and water-repellant clothing is preferred and will help fight off the cold. Also consider covering your head with a hat to keep in some body heat, some gloves or mittens that will keep your hands dry, warm and blister-free, and shoes or boots that have slip-resistant soles to prevent slipping on that horrid ice.

Start early.

Clearing snow early and often is the route to go, especially if you’re expecting a large snowfall. Shoveling and snowblowing is way easier to do with a light covering vs. trying to move packed, heavy snow.

Make sure you can see.

We know that wearing a hat and scarf can help keep out the cold, but don’t let it block your eye sight! Keep your eye out for ice patches or uneven surfaces where you could easily slip.

Check with your doctor if you have any medical problems.

Did you know that clearing snow can actually put a strain on your heart? So, if you have a medical condition or don’t exercise regularly, you should be safe rather than sorry and check with your doctor before your start removing that snow.

Tips for snow shoveling:

Warm up your muscles.

If you’ve ever shoveled before, you know that it’s quite the work out. So be sure to warm up your muscles for at least 10 minutes with some light exercise.

Pace yourself.

Not only is warming up your muscle important, but pacing yourself is too. Take a break every once in a while and drink plenty of fluids so you aren’t getting dehydrated. If you experience any chest pain, shortness of breath, or other signs of a heart attack, stop shoveling and seek emergency care!

Proper equipment.

Shovels come in all shapes and sizes, so make sure you are using one that is comfortable for your height and strength. Spacing your hands out on the tool grip will also help with your leverage.

Proper lifting

Sometimes we’re able to push the snow instead of lifting it, if this option is possible, then do it. But if you have to lift, make sure you have the proper technique. Squat with you legs apart, knees bent, and back straight. Lift with your legs and don’t bend at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow and walk it to the dump spot with it close to your body, so that you don’t put too much weight on your spine.

Safe technique.

Don’t throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back.

Tips for snowblowing:

More than 15,000 people were injured using snowblowers (in 2015). – AAOS

Never stick your hands in the snowblower!

Snowblowers jam, we understand that, but PLEASE don’t put your hands in the chute! If your snowblower is jammed, stop the engine and wait more than 5 seconds. You then can use a solid object to clear away the wet snow or debris. But always beware the recoil of the motor and blades after the machine has been turned off.

Proper supervision.

If you have to walk away from the machine for whatever reason, be sure that you are turning the machine off. Never leave it unattended while it’s running.

Safe fueling.

Be smart when it comes to fueling your snowblower. Add fuel before you start the machine, fuel up outside to avoid those nasty fumes, and never operate in an enclosed area.

Avoid the engine.

Engines get hot when they’re in use. The same applies the snowblower motors.

Use the pull-cord safely.

If your snowblower must start with a pull-cord, make sure that the cord moves freely. Sharply pulling a nonmoving pull-cord can cause injury to your upper body or back.

Watch the snowblower cord.

Though lots of snowblowers now are cordless, this is for those out there that still run with those power cords. Be aware of where the cord is at all times. You don’t want to risk the cord being run over and severed or coming into contact with the engine and burning, or there is a chance you could be electrocuted!

No tampering.

Don’t remove safety devices, shields, or guards on switches, and keep hands and feet away from moving parts.

Watch for motor recoil.

Sometime the motor and blades will continue to move after the machine has been turned off, so beware.

Keep children away.

Keep children 15 years old and younger away when snowblowers are in use and never let them operate the machine.

Understand your machine.

Be sure that you know what you’re doing before you start the machine. Read the manual and be familiar with the safety hazards and unfamiliar features.

 

So shovel or snowblow away and enjoy your new year!

 

**This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice.

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