Living in the Midwest, we are familiar with the snow removal chores that accompany winter. However every year thousands of people visit the emergency room or doctor’s office due to snow removal related injuries.
Tip 1: Snowblower Safety
The majority of snowblower hand-related injuries are due to clogs. When you are using your snowblower, especially after a heavy, wet snow, try to prevent clogging. You can do this by working at a brisk pace; this will help prevent the snow from sticking inside the snowblower. Using the snowblower several times throughout a snowfall will also reduce the chance of a clog.
If your snowblower does clog, never reach your hand down the chute or near the blades. Turn your machine off and wait for the blades to stop moving. Then use a stick or broom to remove the clog. Be aware that even with the snowblower off, there still may be compression in the engine that will cause it to rotate the blades when the clog is removed.
Tip 2: Shoveling Safety
If you choose to shovel during the winter, you can prevent back injuries by pushing the snow rather than lifting. Pushing will help reduce the strain placed on your body. However, if you do have to lift snow make sure you bend your knees and lift with your legs. Avoid throwing snow over your shoulder or off to the side; this technique twists your back causing added stress. You may also want to consider using a plastic or ergonomic shovel to help reduce back pain.
Warming-up before shoveling can also help prevent pain and soreness. Some simple warm-ups include walking in place or bending side to side.
Tip 3: Wearing the Right Clothing and Staying Hydrated
Whether you are snow blowing or shoveling, wearing the right clothing is essential. Choose a boot that allows traction to help prevent you from slipping and falling. Dressing in layers of clothing when shoveling and snow blowing is also helpful because you can remove layers as your body generates heats. Make sure you are not wearing any clothing that blocks your vision. This way you can watch for ice patches or any uneven ground.
Even though the winter air is cold and dry, you will sweat doing any physical activity like snow removal, so it is essential to stay hydrated. Be sure to drink regularly, so you do not become dehydrated as you work.
When You Should Visit the Doctor
If you do fall or injure yourself Dr. Rodgers recommends consulting your physician or emergency room if you experience any of the following:
- Chest Pain or shortness of breath
- Loss of movement in a joint or if it feels unstable
- Inability to walk
- If you hear a pop
- Soreness that continues to worsen