Staying Safe Shoveling Snow

As most of you know, a large portion of the U.S. has been experiencing a tremendous amount of snow so far this winter. The MEMIC office in Tampa, FL might be an exception to this, but the rest of the country has been battling the white stuff on a regular basis.

As we struggle to clean walkways, driveways, loading docks and roadways, it would be appropriate to review the applicable safety measures.

Each winter MEMIC has posted blogs on this subject; check out previous advice by searching the term "winter" at the top of the page. This information is important; according to the US Product Safety Commission, in 2013:

  • Approximately 28,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries that happened while shoveling or manually removing ice and snow.
  • More than 6000 people were injured using snow blowers.

The most common injuries associated with snow removal include sprains and strains, particularly in the back and shoulders, as well as lacerations and finger amputations. Here are some general tips for safe snow clearing from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:

  • Dress appropriately. Light, layered, water-repellent clothing provides both ventilation and insulation. It is also important to wear the appropriate head covering and thick warm socks. Choose gloves or mittens that will keep your hands warm, dry and blister free. Avoid falls by wearing boots that have slip-resistant soles.
  • Start Early. Try to clear snow early and often, particularly if a large (which we have had) snowfall is expected. It is always best to begin shoveling/Snowblowing when there is just a light covering of snow on the ground. Staring early will give you the best chance possible to avoid the potential injuries that come with moving packed, heavy snow.
  • Make sure you can see. Be sure you can fully see the area that you are shoveling/snowblowing. Do not let a scarf or hat block your vision. Watch for ice patches or uneven surfaces. Try to remember prior to the storm where the icy spots or hazards were prior to snow removal.
  • Check with your doctor if you have any medical problems. Clearing snow places a great deal of stress on the heart, so if you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, you should speak with your doctor before shoveling or snowblowing. You may also wish to consider hiring someone to remove the snow, rather than doing it yourself.

Additional resources are available from OSHA and The National Safety Council. Lastly, according to Punxsutawney Phil, we have at least six more weeks of winter, so we’d better prepare and handle all that snow safely!