Is There Any Science to Shoveling?

Science and shoveling? The two might seem a comical pair since we're talking about one of the most basic tools used at work and at home.

It's the entry-level piece of equipment some readers probably used when they first started working. I've also noticed—at least around my house—that kids are allergic to any type of shovel! In any case, the lowly but capable shovel is used all over America’s jobsites and driveways and with that comes risks. Back injuries, rotator cuff inflammations or tears, blown-out knees and heart attacks are all common shovel injuries.

There are three reasons I’m covering this topic now. One, is because snow is in our future and that means moving it. Two, there’s plenty of earth, sand and similar granular materials year-round that need to be dug and moved. And, three, because it's an important topic to Sonny Curtis, a MEMIC safety guy for the construction industry. He has sent me some valuable information on the science behind shoveling prepared by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

The information titled “Shoveling” offers in-depth strategy on everything from suggested scoops per minute (18-21 scoops per minute, with rest breaks built in) to the importance of shovel length (a snow shovel should come up to chest height) to safe throw heights and distances (between three and four feet at maximum).