How to shovel snow safely

Snow falls heavily. A man in a yellow and black coat stands between two parked cars holding a big shovel full of snow.

Dec. 30, 2018—Ahh, a fresh blanket of fallen snow. Time to finish your coffee, bundle up and get to work clearing your driveway and walking paths, right? Yep, you've got this. But first, you might want to check out the following safety pointers.

That's because shoveling snow or running a snow blower isn't just a tedious task. The work can increase the chances of injuries, accidents and even heart attacks. Whether this will be your first snowy winter or you just need a refresher, these tips from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the National Safety Council can help you stay safe.

When wielding a shovel

Consider a checkup. The combination of strenuous activity and cold weather can strain the heart. So if you have heart disease, another medical condition or you're out of shape, it's best to get your doctor's permission before removing snow.

Shovel early, shovel often. This simple trick alone could save you a lot of backache. Plan to start shoveling as soon as possible after even a little of the white stuff falls. The longer you wait, the deeper the snow, and the harder it will be to remove.

Warm up your muscles with a little light exercise. Stretch and move around for at least 10 minutes before you start shoveling.

Don't lift—push. If you're new to wintry weather, this tip may or may not come as a pleasant surprise: Pushing snow to the edges of a driveway or other surface is much easier than scooping and lifting it.

If you lift, use proper form.

After scooping a small amount of snow, bend at your knees (not your back) and let your legs do the work. To dump the snow, walk to where you want to put it. Never throw a shovelful of snow over your shoulder or off to the side.

Keep your traction. Choose boots with slip-resistant soles to help avoid falling.

Pace yourself. If you get tired, head inside and take a break.

When using a snow blower

Snow blowers come with their own set of precautions. For safety's sake, review these additional tips:

  • Know your equipment. Carefully read the instructions before operating or maintaining your snow blower.
  • If the blower jams with snow, turn it off and wait several seconds before using a solid object—not your hand or foot—to clear it.
  • Always keep your hands and feet away from moving parts.
  • Make sure children keep their distance.
  • Never refuel your blower while the engine is running or hot. Gas spilled on a hot engine can spark a fire.

Discover more ways to protect your heart this winter.

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