With records breaking snowfall hitting the east coast this week, many are spending hours (and even days) digging out of ‘Snowmageddon'. Whether you are a novice or a pro, you should take caution while removing snow because injuries are too common. In fact, The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that more than 200,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms and doctors' offices for injuries from shoveling or removing ice and snow. An additional 25,000 people were injured using snow blowers.
Introductory Tips: Before you go outside
- Dress appropriately. Wear light, water-repellent and breathable layers. Do not forget to cover your head, wear thick and warm socks, and choose gloves or mittens that will keep your hands warm, dry, and blister-free. Avoid falls by wearing waterproof boots that have traction and slip-resistant soles.
- Stretch. You are in for a workout when removing snow, so stretch beforehand to get your muscles ready.
- Start early and often. Don't wait for the stop fall to stop. Starting early will give you the best chance possible to avoid the potential injuries that come with moving packed, heavy snow. Removing snow early and often will help decrease snow and ice from sticking to the sidewalk and street, thus will make shoveling easier.
- Make sure you can see. Be sure that you can fully see the area that you are clearing snow. Do not let weather conditions, a hat or scarf block your vision. If you cannot see, go inside. Also watch for ice patches and uneven surfaces.
- Check with your doctor first. Clearing snow places a great deal of stress on the heart, so if you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, you should speak with your doctor before shoveling or snow blowing. If you don't have time to be cleared by a doctor, hire someone.
Tips for how to shovel safely:
- Push, don't lift the snow. If you push the snow to the side rather than trying to lift the snow to remove it, you exert less energy and place less stress on your body.
- If you must lift, do it properly. Squat with your back straight, legs apart and knees bent. Do not bend at the waist. Lift with your legs. Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it –don't throw.
- Don't toss snow over your shoulder.
- Hold the shovel correctly. When holding the shovel, make sure your hands are at least 12 inches apart. By creating distance between your hands, you increase your leverage and reduce the strain on your body.
- Pace yourself, take breaks and stay hydrated.
- Pay attention to passing vehicles. When shoveling snow near streets, pay attention to the traffic since vehicles may not have good traction in the snow and ice.
- Always carry your cellphone for emergencies. Even though you may only be steps from your home, it is important to have your phone on you in the event of an emergency.
How to Walk on Ice Safely:
If you encounter ice while removing snow, experts say to walk like a penguin as show below. .
Tips for safe snow blower operating:
- Never stick your hands in the snow blower. If snow jams the snow blower, stop the engine and wait more than 5 seconds. Use a solid object to clear wet snow or debris from the chute.
- Proper supervision. Do not leave the snow blower unattended when it is running (not even for a second). Shut off the engine if you must walk away from the machine.
- Safe fueling. Add fuel before starting the snow blower. Never add fuel when the engine is running or hot. Be sure to always fuel your snow blower outside--rather than in a garage, shed, or enclosed area. Never operate the machine in an enclosed area.
- Avoid the engine. Stay away from the engine. It can become very hot and burn unprotected flesh.
- Use the pull-cord safely. To start a machine with a pull-cord, hold the cord firmly and stand with feet wide apart in a broad stance. If the cord does not move freely, do not force it. Sharply pulling a nonmoving pull-cord may cause an injury to your upper body or back.
- Watch the snow blower cord. If you are operating an electric snow blower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times. If the cord becomes caught in the machine and is severed, or comes in contact with the engine and burns, you could receive a shock or become electrocuted.
- No tampering. Do not remove safety devices, shields, or guards on switches, and keep hands and feet away from moving parts.
- Watch for motor recoil. Beware of the brief recoil of motor and blades that occurs after the machine has been turned off.
- Keep children away. Never let children operate snow blowers. Keep children 15 years of age and younger away when snow blowers are in use.
- Understand your machine. Read the instruction manual prior to using a snow blower. Be familiar with the specific safety hazards and unfamiliar features. Do not attempt to repair or maintain the snow blower without reading the instruction manual.
To read more from the sources the above information was obtained from, visit AAOS: Prevent Snow Shoveling and Snowblowing Injuries, ABC News Snowstorm Health Hazards: Tips for Staying Safe this Winter, and SIMA Safe Snow Shoveling.
If you suffered an injury from a slip and fall on snow or ice while on another's property, contact Gilman & Bedigian, LLC at 410-560-4999 for a free legal consultation.