Shoveling Safety

Date: January 26, 2023

Carrie Kolodji, Sr. Risk Control Analyst

What You Need to Know to Stay Safe this Winter

Winter has arrived, and snow shovels are coming out of the garage – but don't forget safety first! Each year in the United States, hundreds of people die, and thousands are injured due to snow shoveling. The National Safety Council reports that individuals over the age of 40 and those who are inactive, should take extra caution when shoveling. Here is what you need to know to stay safe and be more efficient this winter.

What Should I Wear?

When shoveling during cold weather, it is important to dress warmly and appropriately. Wearing several layers of warm, waterproof/resistant clothing can help protect you from cold-weather injuries such as hypothermia, chilblains, and frostbite. Additionally, it is important to wear slip-resistant, insulated footwear to help avoid slipping and falling while shoveling.

Do I Need to do Anything Before Shoveling?

Before you consider picking up a shovel, check with your doctor if you are currently inactive, have a history of back problems, or have a heart condition. Shoveling can put some people at risk of a heart attack due to overexertion from moving heavy, wet snow which creates a strain on the heart.

You should also avoid shoveling if you have recently eaten a large meal or while smoking.

To avoid injury, take a few minutes to warm up by stretching or walking in place.

When Should I Shovel?

If possible, shovel only fresh, powdery snow since it is lighter. If it happens to be a large shoveling job, try to break it up by shoveling smaller amounts several times throughout the day.

What Type of Shovel Should I Use?

To reduce the amount of bending and strain on the body, we recommend using an ergonomically designed shovel. Additionally, using a lightweight shovel can help you avoid lifting too much snow at once.

What is the Proper Technique?

When shoveling, use these techniques to avoid injury:

  • Bend at the knees, lift with your legs, and push the shovel instead of lifting with your back.
  • Keep your back and torso as straight as possible.
  • Walk to where you want to drop the snow instead of throwing it over your shoulders in a twisting motion, as this can cause unnecessary stress to your back.
  • Use a smaller shovel, if possible, to decrease the load weight. Heavy wet snow can put a strain on the body.
  • Know your limits. If you experience any pain or discomfort, it is best to take a break and rest.

How Often Should I Take Breaks?

Shoveling can be a strenuous activity, so it's important to take breaks every 20 to 30 minutes, especially if the snow is wet and heavy. Drink plenty of water to help stay hydrated. Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeinated beverages, as they can cause dehydration.

While shoveling can't be avoided, do your part to stay safe this winter. Looking for more winter safety tips? Subscribe to our blog. To find a BITCO agent near you, click the button below.

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For information purposes only. BITCO's blog content does not address all potential circumstances and is not a substitute for business, safety, or legal consultation.

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