Shoveling Snow Safely, a Super Suggestion

February 21, 2017

This winter has been especially harsh from a snow standpoint, with areas across the country – from Victoria, B.C. to St. John, N.B. – seeing abnormally high amounts of snow falling. Of course, more snow on the ground means more snow to shovel from walkways, driveways and sidewalks.

The Canada Safety Council wants you to stay safe and shovel smart, not hard. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you’re clearing the white powder from your paths.

  • Warm up. You’re taking your body out into the cold and exerting energy. The importance of limbering up to prevent muscle strain and injury can’t be overstated. Stretch and get the blood flowing before you dive into the chore. You wouldn’t let a car run without warming it up, so why do the same to your body?
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions. Just because there’s snow down doesn’t mean it’ll naturally be ice cold outside. On the other hand, it also doesn’t mean it’s safe to assume you’ll be fine without protective clothing. Take some time to consider what you’re wearing. If it’s cold out, layer up. The layer closest to your body should be a fabric that doesn’t retain sweat, but rather pushes it away. This will help keep your core warm and avoid chills from damp clothing. Gloves and a toque are also important factors, as windchill and frostbite are no joking matters.
  • Know when to let the snow be. If the weather dips below -40° C, or -25° C if it’s especially windy, let the snow be for the moment. It’ll be there when the weather warms up a bit, and it’s not worth the risk that the extreme cold adds to the equation.
  • Use the right tool for the job. A lightweight shovel with an appropriately sized blade is important. The larger the blade, the more snow it’ll hold and the heavier it will be to lift. Take this into consideration when buying your shovel. Also consider the material the shovel is made with – a metal shovel will naturally retain the cold more than a plastic or wooden one. Lastly, make sure your shovel has a long enough grip that you don’t need to stoop to dig out the snow.
  • Take your time. This seems to be a catch-all safety tip, but holds especially true when shoveling. The temptation is to go quickly, finish the chore and be content. But it becomes a lot more challenging to shovel with sore muscles, overexertion or serious injury. Go slowly and methodically, making sure to shove the snow rather than lift it where possible. Throwing snow can be unavoidable, but if the situation arises make sure you’re throwing in front of you in a linear motion, making sure you’re not twisting at the waist.
  • Pay attention to what kind of snow you’re shoveling. Powdery snow tends to be more lightweight, whereas wetter, more packable snow is naturally heavier because of the water it’s retaining. Recognize the type you’re dealing with before you start shoveling so you can lift appropriate amounts at a time.

When done properly, shoveling snow doesn’t need to be hazardous to your health or safety. Follow this advice and the necessary task will be done painlessly and without undue stress.

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For more information, please contact:

Lewis Smith
Communications/Media Program Coordinator
Canada Safety Council
(613) 739-1535 (ext. 228)