Snow removal safety is no laughing matter. Find out how to get rid of snow safely and what will happen if you don't.
According to Miss Carbuncle, the teacher in Frosty Returns, "Snow belongs in its proper places: mountain tops, poetry, and songs by Bing Crosby!" Whether she's right or wrong may be debatable, but one thing about snow isn't: snow removal safety is too often ignored, usually with unpleasant results.
If you're young enough (either in age or spirit), snow means a day off school, sledding, and hot chocolate to warm up those numb fingers and toes. Snow may also mean shoveling, slipping, and buying bags of rock salt. If you fall into the latter category, then you need to be careful out there.
Snow shoveling injures more than 11,000 adults and children every year. Many of these injuries are relatively minor, such as muscle sprains, but snow shoveling can also lead to herniated discs and heart attacks.
So before you grab your hat and shovel, here are some of the best snow removal safety tips we could find from doctors, physical therapists, and safety experts.
1. Take it easy
Snow is heavy. In fact, snow can weigh anywhere from 7 to 20 pounds per cubic foot. So if you shovel one foot of snow from a 60-foot driveway, you are moving over a ton of snow. Or to put it another way, you just moved three grand pianos. Here is a snow weight calculator if you'd like to determine the numbers for your specific situation.
2. Shovel at the right time (this goes for snow blowers, too)
The National Safety Council points out some of the physiological reasons snow shoveling or pushing a heavy snow blower is so hard on our bodies. The cold weather increases blood pressure, heart rate, and the possibility of blood clots.
To prevent an injury or heart attack, Patrick J. Skerrett, former Executive Editor, Harvard Health, recommends warming up like you would for any exercise. Take breaks, drink water, and go easy with the shoveling. He also says to "head indoors right away if your chest starts hurting, you feel lightheaded or short of breath, your heart starts racing, or some other physical change makes you nervous. If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 or your local emergency number."
3. Use the right shovel (and use it the right way)
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends using a light shovel and spacing your hands out to give yourself more leverage. They also suggest pushing the snow rather than lifting it, but if you do have to lift it, make sure to lift with your legs and keep your back straight.
Another snow removal safety tip they offer is to avoid throwing the snow "over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back." Writing for Spine-health, Peter J. Schubbe, DC, gets a little more descriptive, stating that a shovel with a curved handle and plastic blade is ideal for reducing the strain on your body.
4. Buy a snow blower
The Colorado Comprehensive Spine Institute recommends buying a snow blower to reduce the strain on your back. Depending on where you live, that may or may not be a practical solution. Of course, you could also opt to go in with a neighbor or two and purchase one together.
5. Use your snow blower wisely
The American Society for Surgery of the Hand has a few smart tips for using your snow blower safely. Since snow blowers can clog regularly, the very first thing you should do when you encounter that situation is to turn the snow blower off and wait for the blades to stop rotating. Their next two tips are especially important:
ALWAYS use a stick or broom handle to clear the impacted snow.
NEVER put your hand down the chute or around the blades.
6. Salt your walkways
Whether you shovel or use a snow blower, there is almost always a small amount of snow or ice left on your sidewalk and driveway. Thin layers of ice are especially treacherous to walk on as they are more difficult to anticipate and sometimes difficult to notice until it's too late.
Keep plenty of dog-friendly ice melt around to keep your walkways and driveway free of ice and safe from slips and falls.
Forgotten Places Snow Piles Up
When most people think about snow removal, they think about sidewalks and driveways, shovels and snow blowers. But when snow piles up, it also puts a strain on the roof of your home. The Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety recommends using a snow rake to "shave the snow down to 2 or 3 inches on the roof" while being sure to protect gas, water, and electric meters as well as yourself.
They also recommend clearing snow from any exhaust vents from your furnace or dryer, as well as removing snow from any fire hydrants near your home.
Your car is another regular victim of piling snow. Not only does snow and ice make it difficult for you to see, but that snow can fall or blow off your car and hit someone else, potentially causing an accident. To remove snow from your car, use a soft broom or an ice scraper with a brush to push the snow off your roof, and work your way down to the doors, hood, trunk, and bumpers.
Make sure your headlights and turn signals are clear of snow, too. Once the majority of the snow is off your car and the exhaust pipe is clear, turn on the engine, as well as the heat and defrost. If your car is in a garage, be sure to open the garage door so carbon monoxide doesn't build up. Use an ice scraper to get the remaining snow off your windshield, side windows, mirrors, back windows, and lights. DO NOT pour hot water on your windshield to remove ice. The extreme temperature change will crack your windshield.
One other way to take care of your property in the winter is to get in touch with your Pekin Insurance agent. Nature may try to take a toll on your home, but we're here to help you fight back.