Shoveling snow can be very taxing on the body and could lead to a variety of injuries. A shovel full of dry, fluffy snow weighs up to seven pounds per cubic foot. In contrast, a shovel full of wet snow can weigh up to 20 pounds per cubic foot and greatly increase the chance of an injury.
Common Snow Shoveling Injury Risks
An American Journal of Emergency Medicine study looked at medical emergency data from 1990 to 2006. During that time, 195,000 people in the U.S. were treated in a hospital for a snow shoveling injury with 1,647 resulting in a fatality. The majority of injuries occurred in adult men. The leading cause of death from snow shoveling was due to heart problems in the victims.
Injuries from snow shoveling include:
Lower back injuries
Muscle, ligament, tendon and other soft tissue injuries
Cuts and broken bones
The American Heart Association warns that the risk of a heart attack while shoveling snow may increase for some, as the combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion can be very dangerous. Exposure to cold weather can increase heart rate and blood pressure while also constricting the arteries and reducing oxygen to the heart. In fact, adults over age 55 are 4.25 times more likely than younger people to have heart-related symptoms when shoveling.
Certain individuals have a higher risk of a heart attack during cold outdoor activity and they caution that anyone over 40 years old should take extra caution when shoveling, including:
People with a prior heart attack
People with known heart disease
People with high blood pressure or high cholesterol
People who lead a more sedentary lifestyle
Snowblower Injury Risk
Snowblower usage causes more than 5,000 severe injuries per year . Most snow blower injuries occur to the hand and can range from cuts and lacerations to amputations. As with shoveling, heavy snow is the culprit, but in the case of the snow blower, it is the heavy snow blocking the inner parts of the machine causing investigation and possible injury. For instance, an individual may reach in to clear snow from the inside before the blades have completely stopped moving, resulting in an injury.
Winter Safety Tips for Snow Shoveling
Having a clear walkway or driveway free of snow and ice is vital to productivity for small businesses throughout the winter. From the American Heart Association to your own doctor's advice to the National Safety Council, there are many dos and don'ts for snow removal safety:
Stretch and do at least a 10-minute warm-up before heading outside to shovel
Dress in layers to prevent hypothermia and cover your mouth, head and neck
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water when shoveling
Pre-treat the parking lot and sidewalk with salt or ice-melt before it starts snowing
Shovel only fresh powdery snow
Shovel a few times during and then after a major snowfall
Push the snow rather than lift it - if you have to lift, use a smaller shovel or only partially fill the shovel
Use an ergonomically-designed snow shovel
Keep your hands away from the moving parts on a snowblower
If the snowblower jams, turn it fully off before investigating the problem
Know the signs of a heart attack, stop shoveling immediately and call 911 if you are experiencing any symptoms
Shovel after eating a heavy meal
Smoke cigarettes before, during and directly after shoveling
Rush, instead take frequent, 15-minute breaks
Lift the heavy snow shovel with your back, always lift the shovel with your legs
Throw the snow over your shoulder as this adds more stress to your back
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