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December 7, 2022 General Interest

How to Safely Remove Snow

Adapted from an article by the GWAAR Legal Services Team

During winter, there is always a risk of slipping and falling on ice. It is especially dangerous when that ice is hidden underneath freshly fallen snow. Shoveling heavy snow can cause back, shoulder, knee, and other orthopedic injuries.

Shoveling or pushing a snow blower can also cause a sudden increase in blood pressure and heart rate. The cold air can cause constriction of the blood vessels and decrease oxygen to the heart. These conditions cause the heart to work harder, which can trigger a potentially fatal heart attack. Here are some tips to keep you safe when shoveling or using a snowblower to remove snow.

Tips to prevent falls and injuries while shoveling:

  • Make sure you can see what you are shoveling/snow blowing. Wear a hat or scarf that does not block your vision.
  • Watch for ice patches and uneven surfaces.
  • Wear shoes or boots that have slip-resistant soles.
  • Watch for black ice and ice under freshly fallen snow, and “walk like a penguin” until you are sure that the surface where you are walking is not icy.
  • Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength – don’t use one that is too heavy or long. Consider buying a shovel that is specifically designed to prevent too much stooping.
  • Space your hands on the handle to increase your leverage.
  • Warm up your muscles for 10 minutes with light exercise before you begin shoveling.
  • When possible, push the snow instead of lifting it. If you must lift, take small amounts of snow, and lift it with your legs: squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift by straightening your legs, without bending at the waist. Then walk to where you want to dump the snow; holding a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched puts too much weight on your spine.
  • Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that stresses your back.

Safety tips to help prevent heart attacks while shoveling:

  • Check with your doctor. Because snow removal puts high stress on the heart, speak with your physician first. If you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, you might want to hire someone to remove the snow.
  • Dress appropriately. Light, layered, water-repellent clothing provides both ventilation and insulation. You should also wear head coverings, mittens or gloves, and thick, warm socks. Cover your mouth to help prevent breathing cold air.
  • Clear snow early and often. Start snow removal when a light covering of snow is on the ground to avoid the packed, heavy snow.
  • Avoid shoveling immediately after you wake up. Most heart attacks occur early in the morning when blood is more prone to clotting. Wait for at least 30 minutes and warm up your muscles before starting by walking for a few minutes or marching in place.
  • Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks and drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration. Take a break if you feel yourself getting too hot or too cold. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other signs of a heart attack, seek emergency care.
  • Do not eat a heavy meal before or soon after shoveling because blood gets diverted from the heart to the stomach and can put extra strain on the heart.
  • Do not drink coffee or smoke for at least one hour before or one hour after shoveling or during breaks. These are stimulants so they’ll elevate your blood pressure and heart rate.
  • Do not drink alcohol before or immediately after shoveling. Alcohol can increase a person’s sensation of warmth and may cause you to underestimate the extra strain your body is under in the cold.
  • Watch for warning signs of a heart attack. These can include lightheadedness, dizziness, being short of breath, or tightness or burning in your chest, neck, arms or back. More information about heart attacks can be found here. If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

Safety tips for using a snowblower:

  • Read the instruction manual. Prior to using a snow blower, read the instruction manual for specific safety hazards and unfamiliar features. Check the manual before you repair or maintain the snow blower, too.
  • Do not leave the snow blower unattended when it is running. Shut off the engine if you must walk away from the machine.
  • Watch the snow blower cord. If you are using an electric snow blower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times so you don’t trip and fall.
  • Add fuel before starting the snow blower. Never add fuel when the engine is running or hot. Do not operate the machine in an enclosed area.
  • Never stick your hands or feet in the snow blower. If snow becomes too impacted, stop the engine and wait at least five seconds. Use a solid object to clear wet snow or debris from the chute. Beware of the recoil of the motor and blades after the machine has been turned off.

Wisconsin winters can be very dangerous physically, and we want you to stay safe. You’ll also want to be on high alert for dangerous scammers trying to take advantage of your giving holiday spirit. Check our previous blog for tips on how to avoid getting scammed during the holiday season.

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, please feel free to contact us at 888-818-2611 or