Shovels out, how to remove snow safely

Avoiding snow shoveling injuries
Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 10:22 AM EDT
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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - After a mild winter, it’s time to break out the shovels to remove heaps of snow piling up during Winter Storm Brenda.

If you left all your shoveling until the end of the day, brace yourself for a heavy task.

The wet heavy snow is posing a physical challenge for shovelers.

Even the youngest shovelers are finding Winter Storm Brenda’s burden tough to bear.

Hartford HealthCare said too much shoveling can pose a heart attack risk for those with cardiac conditions, people over 40, and couch potatoes.

An hour of this shoveling is basically an hour of lifting weights.

Ryne Griesenaur, fitness manager at Elite Fitness Club in Seymour, would know the best technique for deadlifting.

“We want it to be one constant pull from the legs into the back into the torso we want a whole full body movement not a jerk from the back,” Griesenauer said. “When it comes to shoveling, it’s the same thing.”

“On a day like today you could be doing as many as 100 reps?” Eyewitness News asked.

“Yeah it could be a long day out there,” said Griesenauer.

He said taking frequent breaks is key, because unlike a weight bar, the heavy wet snow has to be flung somewhere besides a gym floor.

“Lifting 30, 40 pounds is a lot harder when it’s like you know a foot, foot and a 1/2 to 2 feet away from your body,” Griesenauer said.

Stretching beforehand and staying hydrated will also make the difference between feeling the gains and feeling the strain the next day.

No matter how much you lift, it’s always easier with an extra set of hands to spot you.

The general consensus seems to be somewhere between elbow and shoulder height so you’re not stooping and straining your back, or creating too much resistance with a shaft that’s too long.

Below are some tips from Hartford Healthcare to clear the snow as safe as possible.

Shoveling: Listen to your body

  • Warm up for 10 minutes with light exercise and stretches.
  • Don’t overdo it. Shoveling snow can be intense exercise that may your heart rate and blood pressure higher, dramatically.
  • Drink plenty of water and make sure to take breaks to not overwork your body.
  • Use a shovel suitable for your height and strength. If using a large shovel, fill it no more than halfway.
  • Don’t lift the snow. Push it. If lifting, bend your knees and use your legs, don’t bend at the waist to reduce strain on your back.
  • Avoid hurting your back. Do not use a twisting motion to throw snow either to the side of over your shoulder.
  • Do not shovel while smoking or after eating.

Health Cautions

  • If you have a history of heart trouble, do not shovel snow without your doctor’s approval.
  • Don’t knock yourself out. If you run out of breath, pause.
  • If you feel chest pain, stop immediately and call 9-1-1.

Using A Snow blower

Never stick your hands in the snow blower. A University of Arkansas researcher who studied more than 30,000 snow blower injuries found a common theme - many people were injured even with the machine powered down.

They put a hand in a clogged chute, with some assurance because the snow blower wasn’t running, but when they removed some snow the rotational force of the suddenly freed blades injured the hand. So:

  • If snow jams the snow blower, stop the engine, and use a solid object to clear the chute.
  • Never leave a running snow blower unattended Never add fuel in an enclosed space.
  • Don’t wear a scarf or other loose clothing that might get caught in the snow blower’s moving parts.
  • Use an electronic ignition when possible. Pulling a stuck pull-cord can injure your upper body or back.
  • Don’t run the machine in an enclosed area such as a garage or shed. (Gasoline engines release carbon monoxide.)

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas produced by winter household staples like portable generators, snow blowers and the fireplace, whether fueled by oil, natural gas or wood. Some basics:

  • Make sure the damper is open, ensuring proper ventilation, before using a fireplace.
  • Never use a generator in the garage and especially in the home.
  • Keep generators at least 20 feet from your home, doors and windows.
  • Never heat your home with your oven or stovetop.
  • Never use a barbecue grill in the garage.