Are you responsible for the snow removal of sidewalks, parking lots and other areas at or around your workplace? What are the potential pitfalls when doing this by manually shoveling or using a snowblower?
Did you know that snow shoveling can strain your heart enough to cause a heart attack? Shoveling can cause a sudden increase in the blood pressure and heart rate. Cold air, which can cause constriction of the blood vessel and a decrease of oxygen to the heart, makes it harder to work and breathe.
More “Did you know …”
- Snow shoveling causes an average of nearly 100 deaths and 11,500 emergency department visits each year in the United States.
- The most frequently injured area of the body is the lower back (34%).
- Heart problems make up 7% of the injuries—but 100% of the deaths.
- The most common cause of injuries was acute musculoskeletal exertion (54%).
- Slips or falls (20%) are the second most common cause of injuries.
- Pick the right shovel for you. A smaller blade will require you to lift less snow, putting less strain on your body.
- Plastic shovels weigh less than metal shovels, and snow is not as likely to stick to them. These factors add less weight to your load. Spray the blade with a lubricant to keep snow from sticking.
- Pick up smaller loads of snow. It’s best to shovel by sections.
Proper Shoveling Technique
Bend your knees, dip moderately low.
Lift with legs, keep lower back straight.
Toss to the side. Do not twist to the side; turn you entire body to the side then toss the snow.
Resources for You
Using a snow blower is one alternative to manually clearing snow. While not as strenuous, it doesn’t mean the job is effortless or risk-free. It is still a physical activity and the work is done outdoors in the cold.
Snow blowers also don’t make the work injury-free either. Operators suffer injuries to the hands, fingers, backs and more.
- Dense snow tends to clog the machines and, unfortunately, operators sometimes ignore safety warnings and use their hands in to clear it out.
- There’s a lag time between when you release the dead man’s switch and when the blades stop moving.
- Sometimes, when a clog is removed, the blades can spin again using stored energy
- Operate the unit only when there is good visibility and light.
- Wear adequate winter outer garments and appropriate footwear – sturdy with good traction - for slippery surfaces.
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE). That could be safety glasses, hearing protection, protective gloves and more.
- Protect your ears. Most gas powered snowblowers are loud and can cause hearing damage.
- Avoid wearing loose clothing, jewelry or anything that may get caught in rotating parts.
- If the blower jams, turn it off.
- Keep your hands away from moving parts.
- Add fuel outdoors and before starting your job. Never add fuel when the blower is running.
Snow Removal Safety Tips
- Use ice melt, salt, or sand to decrease the hazard of icy surfaces.
- Try to clear snow early and often—take frequent breaks. Begin shoveling/blowing when a light covering of snow is on the ground.
- Push snow rather than lift it when possible, especially when the snow is heavy
Resources for You
• How to Clear Snow and Ice from Pavements and Public Spaces
• 7 Snow Removal Alternatives to Using Salt and Chemicals
• OSHA Winter Weather Hazards/Precautions.
• Working Outside in the Cold Weather.