President’s Perspective – Snow Shovelling

As Canadians, we are all too familiar with the winter ritual of shovelling snow from driveways and sidewalks. But how many of us are doing this chore properly? How can you keep from hurting yourself while shovelling?

As we’ve all experienced on those cold winter mornings, the need to shovel can sometimes come as a surprise. But however much of a hurry we might be in, the importance of warming up to prepare your body can’t be overstated. Remember that while it can be a great workout, shovelling is a strenuous activity that if done without proper preparation can lead to muscle strains, cold exposure, back injuries and stress on the heart. So be sure to warm up – stretch, flex muscles and get the blood flowing before you dive in to that first shovel full.

Next, take a look at what you’re wearing. Are you dressed appropriately? I suggest that you wear several layers of lightweight, non-restrictive clothing that gives you freedom of movement. The innermost layer should be “whisking” or thermal underwear that will allow perspiration to move away from the skin. Make sure your head (especially your ears), feet and hands are all well covered. Your boots should be lightweight, waterproof and have good traction to prevent slips and falls.

If the temperatures are very cold, below – 40° C (or below – 25 °C when it is windy) then you should not shovel at all.

As for your shovel itself, invest in a lightweight shovel, less than 1.5 kg or about three pounds with a blade that is not too large. Otherwise the load per shovel full will be too heavy, causing a great deal of stress on your back and heart. The grip should be long enough so you do not have to stoop to shovel. I use a wooden or plastic shovel, as I find metal to be too cold.

When shovelling, set a reasonable pace. The temptation is to dive right in and clear out as much as you can quickly, but this can lead to overexertion and injury. Try to push the snow rather than throw it. If you have to throw the snow, take only as much as you can easily lift with your shovel and turn your feet in the direction you are tossing the snow. Never twist at the waist to throw a load, and never throw snow over your shoulder! Remember that the wetter the snow is, the heavier it will be. Take your time and be sure to pause for a break when you need to.

Snow shovelling is part of winter in our country, but it need not be a dangerous part. We at the CSC encourage you to follow these tips and have a safe and happy winter season, and a great year ahead.

Safety, It’s an Attitude

Jack Smith