Don’t Get Hurt While Trying To Keep Your Walkways Safe: Tips For Safe Snow Removal

It’s winter in the Sierra Nevada, and snow will likely cover the Valley floor more than a few times before the season is done.

While it may be pretty to look at, snow can literally be a pain to remove.

Every year, somewhere around 160,000 people in the United States are treated for a variety of injuries that happen while shoveling snow, using a snowblower or removing ice manually. Injuries run the gamut from sprains and strains to more severe lacerations and even amputations.

Shoveling snow can be especially hard on back, shoulder and arm muscles because it involves a lot of bending and heavy lifting.

It can also be hard on the heart: Older adults face an increased risk for having heart problems while shoveling. And it’s not unusual for people to slip or fall — or get hit by the shovel — when removing snow.

When it’s time to tackle that snow-covered walkway or driveway, follow these suggestions for safe removal:

• Dress appropriately. Wear light, water-repellent clothing; a hat; gloves; and warm socks. Put on shoes or boots with good traction to avoid falling. Consider gloves that will keep your hands warm, dry and blister-free.

• Never use a shovel that is too heavy or too long. Keep your hands wider apart on the handle to improve your leverage on the snow.

• Clear snow early and often. It’s easier to remove a light covering of snow from the ground several times than it is to clear packed, heavy snow all at once.

• Take plenty of breaks and drink lots of water.

• If you feel any pain, stop shoveling right away. If you have chest pain, seek medical attention immediately.

• Push snow instead of lifting it.

• Avoid throwing snow over your shoulder or to the side because it can stress your back.

• If using a snowblower, never place your hands inside the machine. If snow jams the snowblower, stop the engine and wait more than five seconds. Use a solid object to clear wet snow or debris from the chute. Beware of potential recoil from the blades or the motor after the machine has been turned off.

• Shut off the engine before walking away from the snowblower. Never leave it unattended while it is running.

• Never add fuel to a snowblower while the engine is running or hot.

If you have any questions about your snow-shoveling fitness, you should talk to your doctor—especially if you’re older than 40, don’t exercise regularly or have a history of heart problems.

If you do get injured, remember Carson Valley Medical Center has both Urgent Care (897 Ironwood Drive, Minden) and emergency (1107 Highway 395 N, Gardnerville) facilities available to help.

For tips, recipes and articles related to health and wellness, visit www.healthycarsonvalley.org.

Sources: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; National Safety Council

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