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Safety Tips for Shoveling

Snow season has officially hit Maine, which means if you haven’t already, you will surely need to move snow out of your way soon. Shoveling snow is a very physical and tedious task. It’s important that as you shovel, you remember the below tips to avoid any unwanted injuries.

Pick the “appropriate” snow shovel for the job:

  • The shovel should be light weight (max 3 lbs.).
  • The shovel handle should be to chest height to decrease forward bending .
  • A smaller blade will encourage less snow to be lifted and thus decreases risk of injury.
  • Consider the use of a wide blade shovel that are designed for pushing snow. Handles are positioned around elbow height allowing for an upright shoveling position.

While shoveling remember the following:

  • PACE yourself and listen to your body. If you have shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, pain, nausea or sweating STOP immediately.
  • Take rest and stretch breaks frequently (i.e., every 15 minutes).
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Dress in several layers, wear gloves that allow you to maintain a good grip on the handle of the shovel and wear appropriate footwear to decrease risk of falling.

Guidelines for safe snow shoveling include:

  • Push snow to where you pile it to reduce the amount of carrying of snow.
  • Shoveling at a rate of no more than 15 scoops per minute. At this rate, shoveling should not be sustained longer than 15 minutes and should be followed by a 15-minute break. The weight (shovel plus snow) at this pace should not exceed 15 lbs.

Ergonomic best work techniques while shoveling include:

  • Your feet should be hip width apart with front foot close to the shovel.
  • Your weight should be on the front foot.
  • Use your legs to help push into snow.
  • When lifting, breathe in, bend knees (not back), tightened stomach muscles, lift with your legs while shift your body weight to back foot. Breath out while throwing snow.
  • Keep the snow load as close to as you can to your body.
  • DO NOT TWIST. Allow your feet to turn in the direction in which you throw/dump snow.

While this is a lot of information, it is all equally important to reduce your risk of injury from shoveling. If you do think that perhaps you’ve overdone it or hurt yourself, stop shoveling immediately. If you think you’ve suffered an orthopedic injury, you can always visit our OrthoAccess, our walk-in orthopedic clinic, where you can be seen by an expert almost immediately.

Stay safe and warm out there!

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