Copyright: Jennifer Huls
Here in the Midwest we are no stranger to the snow. Minnesotans begin to expect the arrival of snow in October and to part with it during the months of March and April. In the meantime, it has got to go somewhere. Shoveling snow becomes one of many seasonal chores that makes its way onto the winter to-do list.
Believe it or not, shoveling can demand a lot from your body as it requires a lot of energy and hard work. Poor shoveling technique and equipment are not an uncommon occurrence. This activity paired with unhealthy ergonomics can lead to serious risks and consequences such as back and shoulder injuries to heart attacks.
Our ergonomic guide to shoveling will get you well on your way to shoveling properly and safely.
Be sure to prepare for the weather with the proper attire. Include a base layer, mid layer and insulating layer before putting on any outerwear. By doing so, you can avoid losing body heat, hypothermia and frostbite. Tech fabrics such as polypropylene or polyester work great as a base layer. These fabrics force moisture to pass through its fibers, expelling it to the fabric’s surface where it can evaporate.
Before you shovel
As eager as you might be to get out to your driveway and begin plowing away at the previous night’s snowfall, avoid actually stepping on any of the snow you wish to shovel. Once snow is condensed it can be harder to shovel. Assess where you need to shovel and the pattern you will travel before blindly flattening the snow with your feet.
The shovel makes a difference
Of course, there are a variety of shovels one can choose from. A straight shovel is effective for lifting while a curved shovel makes pushing snow a lot easier. Determine which shovel is best for you and your shoveling needs before choosing the first one you find at your local store.
Grease your shovel
If you’re familiar with a Minnesota snowfall, you’ll know just how sticky some snow can be. Using a spray lubricant will keep large amounts of snow clinging and sticking together and to the shovel.
Before you begin to lift ample amounts of snow, try to push the snow when and where you can as this is safer than lifting. When you must lift, make sure to lift light loads, avoid twisting, and throw each load a short distance. Lifting snow properly will help you avoid lifting-related injuries. The best techniques to remember while shoveling are keeping your back straight, bend from your hips and knees and keep your feet positioned in a wide stance. Also, try to switch from the right to the left with every “lift and throw” of snow.
Take breaks and stay hydrated
It’s important to pace yourself while pushing your body in any difficult activity. Shoveling isn’t an easy task. The same way you might take breaks while exercising is a habit you should apply to the task of shoveling snow. Taking too few breaks is unfortunately a common poor habit that yields unhealthy results. Yes, you can get dehydrated in the winter! Make sure to drink lots of fluids that are water only or water based, such as hot tea.
Shoveling the snow during the winter season might be a dreaded chore, but it truly doesn’t need to be! With these ergonomic tips, your shoveling experience should move a lot more smoothly.
For more ergonomic guides and safety-related resources, check out our blog.