Snow Removal Tips to Save Your Back

only remove as much snow
as you’re comfortable lifting!
So now that we (in Southeastern PA) have our first significant snowstorm under our belts, I thought I would post a few tips for those of us who will be completing the massive snow removal task by hand, using old-fashioned shovels.

Please be careful! Be sure to use good body mechanics (bending at the knees, not lifting too much snow at a time, etc) when shoveling. Dressing properly, using the right tools, staying hydrated and taking frequent breaks will help the task go more smoothly.

In general, you’ve got two choices:

  • Shovel after every few inches of snow that falls or 
  • wait until the storm ends and remove the snow in layers.    
In either case, only remove as much snow as you’re comfortable lifting. We chose the latter, to remove in layers. Jay has been out there for several hours by himself, because one shovel has broken, and the other is on its way out! 

Packed snow is definitely much harder to clear, so try not to walk on, drive on or other wise pack it down before shoveling. 

If you can hire someone with a snowblower, or plow, (or if you have one yourself) do it! I don't have to tell you how much easier it makes the job, especially when removing 2 feet of snow from a very long driveway!

On average, 11,500 injuries related to snow shoveling, and 100 deaths are reported and treated in each year, according to the Center for Injury Research and Policy (Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital.)

One in every three of those injured, suffered lower back injuries along with injuries to the arms, hands, and head. Slipping/falling accounted for one in five shoveling accidents, and about 15%
of the injuries were caused by being struck by a snow shovel.

The following tips are recommended by Nationwide Children's  for preventing injuries when shoveling snow:

  • Warm up with light exercise before you start.
  • Make sure to pace yourself by taking frequent breaks for rest.
  • The best way to clear snow is by pushing it instead of lifting.
  • Ergonomically designed shovels are a great choice to reduce the need for bending and heavy lifting.
  • When possible, avoid large shoveling jobs by clearing snow several times throughout the day.
  • Remember to wear warm (and waterproof) clothing, including a hat, gloves and slip-resistant, high-traction footwear.
More from Nationwide Children's web page: 

"While the majority of snow shovel-related injuries occurred among adults, more than 1,750 children and adolescents under the age of 19 years were injured each year while shoveling snow. Patients in this age group were almost 15 times more likely than those in other age groups to be injured as a result of being struck by a snow shovel, and two-thirds of their injuries were head injuries. “Shoveling snow can be a great outdoor activity for kids; however, it is important for parents to teach children the correct way to shovel snow and remind them that shovels are not toys,” said Dr. Smith, also a professor of pediatrics in The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Many of the snow shovel-related injuries to children are the result of horseplay or other inappropriate uses of snow shovels.”

On a personal note, you also need to look up! Watch for and safely remove overhanging snow and giant icicles such as these on our porch, pictured at right. I certainly do not want anyone to be under that when it decides to let go!

Bonus Tip: If the snow is sticking to the shovel (or the snow blower’s shoot), give it a quick spray with either silicone or, in a pinch, non-stick cooking spray.

To ensure that your cleared surfaces stay that way, use salt or ice melt on those clear areas. If the sun comes out, like it is today, that helps melt and dry the pavement you have cleared. (Click this link to see a Consumer Reports Product Review article on which ice melts work best and are safest for your pets and your property.)

Stay warm, safe & dry everyone! I hear round #2 is coming on Wednesday!