This weekend, we were faced with the words most Michigan residents had hoped to never hear again: “polar vortex.” Yes, winter has hit with a vengeance, and the time has come to dust off our snow shovels and take to the driveways if we ever want to get our cars on the road. And while you probably know to drive carefully in this weather, did you know that some dangers are looming before you ever get behind the wheel?
Yes, studies have shown that snow shoveling is responsible for more than 11,000 hospitalizations each year. Many of them were for expected injuries, like slipping and falling on the ice, or overworking muscles. But 7% of these injuries were serious heart problems, and some of them were even fatal.*
So how do we avoid these injuries? We’ve found a list of tips from the Snow & Ice Management Association to help you stay safe.
- Don’t wait. If you wait until the snow stops falling, you might have 5 or 6 inches to clear off. Clearing it away every 1-2 inches helps reduce the risk of straining your muscles, and lets you take on the snow in phases instead of rushing to do it all at once ten minutes before you have to leave for work.
- Dress the part. It might feel a little silly to put a lot of thought into clothes you’re only going to wear a few times a year, but making sure you have the right gear is critical. High-quality waterproof boots with good traction are a key ingredient in preventing falls, and breathable layers like cotton and silk allows your perspiration to evaporate while still keeping you warm.
- Push the snow, don’t lift it. Pushing the snow to the side instead of lifting it with your shovel puts less stress on your body, and doesn’t exert as much energy. This is good for you, and also helps you stay out longer and get the job done faster.
- Take care of your body. Stop to stretch and hydrate frequently. Shoveling snow is a work-out, and should be treated like one!
When shoveling snow, remember the mantra, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” Obviously, you never expect to get hurt shoveling snow. But when you go out armed with a shovel and these tips, make sure you bring your cell phone with you, just in case you need to make an emergency call. And always be on the lookout for cars that might lose control as they drive past you.
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that shoveling snow is not a race. Don’t compete with the teenaged boy two doors down, don’t try to out-shovel the snow plows, and don’t force your body to keep going when it doesn’t want to. Set your own pace, take frequent breaks, and stay safe this season.
If you are careful and keep our tips in mind, you’ll be able to spend the rest of your evening curled up comfortably on your couch, instead of in the emergency room.