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Snow Shoveling Safety Basics

A blanketing of snow might create a beautiful winter wonderland, but it also covers our driveways and sidewalks too. Unfortunately, every winter, snow shoveling is responsible for an estimated 11,500 injuries or medical emergencies in the United States. That’s why we’ve put together some snow shoveling safety tips for slaying all that white stuff that’s in your way.

Get your doc’s permission

Do you have a history of heart disease, blood clots or any other health issues that may impact your ability to safely shovel snow? Are you recovering from a pesky knee injury? Have you been relatively inactive for the past few weeks or months? If so, make sure you have a chat with your doctor before picking up a shovel. Cold weather can raise your heart rate and your blood pressure, according to the National Safety Council. When you couple the cold with the physical activity of snow removal, you’ve got to be extra careful, even if you’re young and in good health. If you have any concerns, hire a snow-removal business to safely do the job for you.

Wear proper gear

What you wear can help you prevent stress from working in cold weather and avoid injury-inducing falls. Opt for three light layers of loose-fitting clothing, according to OSHA’s recommendations for outdoor work in winter weather. The base layer against your skin should be wool, silk or synthetic — not cotton, which traps wetness next to your body and can actually make you feel colder. The middle layer should offer insulation. And the outer layer should provide protection from wind and any additional snowfall or sleet. You can always remove a layer if you become too warm. Cover your head and ears with a warm hat. And you may even want to wear a knit mask to protect your face from the elements, especially if it’s frigid or you have breathing issues, like asthma, which can be triggered by cool air. Wear gloves that allow you to grip the shovel, and wear insulated, waterproof boots with good traction.

Use smart, safe techniques

Stretch before you begin, and make sure your body feels warm. Use a shovel with a long-enough handle so that you aren’t hunching or bending. Popular Mechanics has a guide to finding the right snow-removal tools. If you do need to, be sure to bend at your knees, not your waist. The best technique is to push rather than to lift. If you do have to lift snow, scoop small amounts at a time. Maintain a stance with your feet about shoulder-width apart and lift with your legs while keeping your back straight. Avoid twisting and keep the shovel close to your body.

Start early and go easy

Don’t hack away at packed ice and snow. You’re better off shoveling early after a snowfall when it’s still powdery. However, some storms will dump big, wet flakes that freeze to surfaces. In those cases, use salt and other tools to mitigate the mess rather than wreaking havoc on your body. Take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Snow shoveling is a tough workout and can quickly deplete your electrolytes. The good news? After shoveling you can probably skip that heavy gym session.

Follow this advice and don’t go cold

Now that you know how to properly shovel snow without injuring yourself, kick back in front of a warm fire with a hot beverage in hand to get through the rest of this chilly weather.