Preventing Snow Shoveling and Snow Blowing Injuries

While nobody actually likes getting rid of snow from their driveways or roads, it’s not just a nuisance; Snow removal can actually be quite dangerous. According to the US Consumer Products Safety Commission, every year, more than 140,000 people end up in hospital emergency rooms and doctor’s offices for injuries sustained while removing snow and ice. The main types of injuries include sprains and straining of the back and shoulder as well as lacerations and finger amputations.

These injuries are often sustained because of people overextending themselves, putting additional stress on their hearts and aggravating other existing conditions. Other injuries are due to being inappropriately dressed for the cold weather, leading to hypothermia and falls due to ice, uneven surfaces and not wearing appropriate slip-resistant footwear.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) offers the following suggestions for protecting yourself when removing snow:

Shovelling:

  • Warm-up your muscles with 10 minutes of exercise since shovelling can be a physically demanding activity.
  • Pace yourself, drink plenty of fluids and stop if you experience discomfort.
  • Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength and space your hands on the grip for better leverage.
  • Try to push the snow instead of lifting if possible.
  • If you must lift the shovel, do it properly by squatting with legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Do not bend at the waist and lift with the legs. Small amounts of snow should be scooped rather than large amounts.
  • Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side as this requires a twisting motion that will stress the back.

Snowblowing:

  • Never stick your hands in the snow blower, even if the snowblower jams. Stop the engine, wait at least 5 seconds and then use a solid object to clear the obstruction.
  • Be aware the motor and blades may recoil even if the machine has been turned off.
  • Do not leave the snowblower unattended when it is running.
  • Add fuel before starting the snow blower and never while it is in use.
  • Do not operate a snowblower in an enclosed area.
  • Stay away from the engine as it can very hot.
  • We aware of the snowblower’s power cord at all times.
  • Do not remove safety devices, shields or guards on switches, and keep hands and feet away from moving parts.
  • Never allow children to operate snowblowers.
  • Read the instruction manual and be familiar with the machine’s safety hazards and features.
  • Do not attempt to repair or maintain the machine without reading the instruction manual.

If you have existing conditions, make sure to check with your doctor before attempting this activity. Be cautious when getting rid of the snow and take heart in the fact that there is only a few months before the snow clears away and the temperature rises enough for you to put your snow removal tools in storage.

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