Clearing snow from driveways and sidewalks can be hazardous for homeowners. The Snow & Ice Management Association shares best practices for safe shoveling and snow blowing.
Snow: It’s pretty to look at, but if you have to go out in the cold and clear it from your driveway, it can be hazardous to your health if you don’t take the proper precautions.
Like the professionals you see clearing your local grocery stores and hospitals, the first step is to wear the right personal protective equipment (PPE). Dress in breathable layers, avoiding heavy wools and non-moisture-wicking clothing. Wear quality, outdoor waterproof boots with good traction; a hat; and warm, waterproof gloves. These can help you avoid frostbite and hypothermia from overexposure to the elements.
Once you’re bundled up, stretch before you start and finish shoveling. It might sound silly, but overexertion is responsible for the most common health hazards that happen when shoveling: back and shoulder injuries, broken bones, and, yes, even death. Don’t underestimate the impact shoveling snow can have on your health. You can slip and fall on snow or ice, resulting in broken bones or a head injury. Plus, sudden exertion and the weight of heavy snow can put some people at risk of a heart attack.
Follow these precautions to shovel safely:
- Never try to shovel more than 1-2 inches of snow at a time. Consider shoveling multiple times during a snow event if possible.
- Whenever possible, push snow instead of lifting it.
- Never lift a shovel filled with snow and twist with your back. Always lift with the knees and use your feet to carefully alter direction.
- Take frequent breaks from shoveling and stay hydrated.
Safe snow blowing
If you opt for a snow blower instead of a shovel, don’t be one of the estimated 5,000 people a year who are injured while using it. Typical injuries are cuts, lacerations, and even amputation. Keep your digits intact with these tips:
- Keep your body behind the handles at all times when operating.
- Always turn off the engine before working on or in the machine. Never use your hands (or any other part of your body) to free an obstruction — even if it’s turned off.
- Never touch the engine or other mechanical parts of the machine while they’re hot.
- Never blow snow toward pedestrians or cars.
- Wear ear and eye protection along with the PPE mentioned earlier.
Snow clearing might seem like a mundane task, but it can be dangerous. When you’re out in the elements, stop immediately if you experience dizziness, chest pains, difficulty breathing, muscle twinges or tightness, or your numb skin (typically fingers, toes, nose, and hands). These are all warning signs that you may be in danger.