Thanks for joining us. In this episode we’re going to give you the scoop on how to safely shovel snow this winter season.
Do you lift weights? Would you lift weights in sub-zero temperatures, on uneven, slippery ground, while wearing heavy clothing? When you shovel snow, that's essentially what you're doing. Some people take this task a step further and do it in a hurry, lifting far too much weight at a time, several times in a row, often for 20 minutes to an hour. Some even proceed to twist their bodies in awkward ways to dump or throw that weight to the right or left of them.
No wonder emergency rooms are crowded every winter with people who have injured their backs while shoveling snow! Researchers also report an increase in the number of fatal heart attacks among snow shovelers after a heavy snowfall. We Canadians know our snow, but we're not always wise to the hazards of shoveling it.
Shoveling snow can be risky, but not if you do it right. Make sure you allow yourself enough time. People get hurt when they try to shovel in a hurry. In the wintertime, leave time in your schedule for shoveling, and it’ll be a more pleasant, safer task.
Should you be shoveling at all? As with any form of strenuous exercise, check with your doctor first. If you’re older, overweight, or have a history of back or heart problems, or simply feel that it’s too much for you, delegate the task to someone else or get a snow blower. Also, no one should shovel if the temperature drops below -40°C, or below -25° to -30°C when it is windy.
Be sure to warm up first before you start to shovel. Walk for a few minutes or march on the spot. Do a few flexing and stretching exercises so that the work doesn't come as a shock to your system.
It’s also a great idea to wear several layers of warm, lightweight clothing that you can move comfortably in. The inner layer should be fishnet or thermal underwear that wicks perspiration away from the skin. Cover your head, especially your ears, feet and hands. Wear water-resistant, high-cut boots with good traction. In very cold weather, try to cover your face as much as possible.
If the ground is icy or slippery, spread salt, sand or kitty litter to create better foot traction.
Use a proper snow shovel. It should be light-weight, about 1.5 kg or a little over 3 lbs, and the blade shouldn't be too large. The handle should be long enough so that you don't have to stoop to shovel. The grip should be made of plastic or wood - metal gets too cold.
And keep moving and work at a steady pace. Shovel only small, manageable amounts (about 1-2 inches) at a time. Protect your back by lifting properly and safely. This includes:
Always recognize the danger signs. Stop shoveling and call 911 if you feel discomfort or heaviness in the chest, arms or neck; unusual or prolonged shortness of breath; a dizzy or faint feeling; or excessive sweating or nausea and vomiting.
Remember what others have learned the hard way. Shoveling snow is a strenuous activity that can take a heavy toll on your body and well-being.
For more information on how to properly shovel snow, please visit ccohs.ca and search on “snow”. Thanks for listening everyone.