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Best Practices for Shoveling Snow

When winter arrives—often bringing low temperatures and snowfall with it—the seasonal transition may require you to start periodically shoveling snow. Although this task is necessary to help clear pathways and prevent ice buildup, shoveling snow comes with serious safety risks.

After all, repeated shoveling requires significant physical exertion, which—when paired with the frigid outdoor elements—can take a dangerous toll on your body. The most common complications that can accompany shoveling snow include sprains and strains, hypothermia, frostbite and even cardiac arrest. That’s why it’s crucial to utilize proper precautions while you shovel snow. Consider these best practices:

  • Always check the weather before working outdoors to properly prepare yourself. Try to limit your time shoveling if weather conditions are extremely cold, wet or windy.
  • Make sure you dress appropriately for the task at hand. Wear several loose layers of clothing, a warm hat that fully covers your head and ears, mittens (rather than gloves) and thick socks that will keep your feet dry.
  • Avoid shoveling immediately after eating or while smoking.
  • Take a few minutes to stretch before you begin shoveling to better prepare your body for the physical demands of the task.
  • Try to push the snow instead of lifting it. If you must lift snow while shoveling, use a smaller shovel or only partially fill your shovel with snow to avoid lifting too much at a time. In addition, remember to lift with your legs rather than your back.
  • Pay attention to how you feel while you shovel—never work to the point of exhaustion. If you begin to feel overly fatigued, stop shoveling and inform your supervisor.
  • When handling large amounts of snow, consider utilizing a snowblower rather than a shovel to avoid the extra labor.