One of the more common causes of back injuries during the winter months is snow removal. Using the wrong body mechanics when shoveling snow can put undue stress on the spine and lead to muscle strains, falls, or more serious back injuries. These injuries can be prevented if proper precautions are taken.
REMINDERS BEFORE YOU BEGIN
• Warm-up your muscles. Shoveling can be a vigorous activity.
• Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks and prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other signs of a heart attack, stop shoveling/blowing and seek emergency care.
• Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength. Do not use a shovel that is too heavy or too long for you.
• Try to push the snow instead of lifting it. If you must lift, do it properly.
• Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back.
SNOW BLOWERS A snow blower can be a useful tool for removing snow quickly. But while often more convenient, they can also be more dangerous than shoveling. Be aware of the proper techniques of using a snow blower and read the user manual and pay attention to labels on the machine.
• Never stick your hands in the snow blower! If snow jams the snow blower, stop the engine and use a solid object to clear wet snow or debris from the chute. Beware of the brief recoil of motor and blades that occurs after the machine has been turned off.
• Do not leave the snow blower unattended when it is running.
• Add fuel before starting the snow blower. Never add fuel when the engine is running or hot.
• Stay away from the engine. It can become very hot and burn unprotected flesh.
• Watch the snow blower cord. If you are operating an electric snow blower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times.
SIDEWALKS & DRIVEWAYS It’s also important to keep ice clear from your sidewalks and driveways to prevent accidents. Ice melt and all-purpose sand can add traction to these surfaces, plus ice chippers work well.