How to Shovel Snow
Make sure you shovel snow the right—and safe—way.
The American Journal of Emergency
Thousands of people visit emergency rooms each year with injuries sustained while shoveling snow. Prevent a trip to the ER by following these easy safety rules:
Tackle the job early. Fresh snow is lighter and easier to shovel than packed snow. Clearing 1 foot of heavy snow from a 16×30-foot driveway equates to clearing approximately 4 tons of snow.
Dress appropriately. Avoid hypothermia by dressing in layers. As your body temperature rises, you can shed clothing to reduce sweating. Also be sure to wear a hat, gloves and slip-resistant boots.
Warm up first. Get your blood flowing by marching in place for a few minutes. To avoid pulling a muscle, take time to stretch your arms, legs and back.
Pick a good shovel. The right shovel can make a huge difference. Select the appropriate tool for the job:
- Weight: Choose something light—around 3 pounds.
- Shaft: Ergonomic shovels with bends in the shafts can reduce stress on your back.
- Length: For efficiency, choose a shovel that is elbow height. For reduced back strain, select a model that comes up to your breastbone.
- Blade: The type depends on the task: A large, curved blade is best for pushing snow, while a smaller blade—about 10 to 14 inches—is best for lifting it.
- Handle: D-shapes offer the least risk of injury.
Pace yourself. Take your time—it’s not a race. To reduce the risk of injury, shovel for about 5 to 7 minutes, then take a 2- to 3-minute break.
Use proper posture and technique. Always push snow rather than lift it. If you must lift snow:
- Keep feet hip-width apart
- Bend at your knees, not your waist
- Position your hands about 12 inches apart
- Keep the load close to your body
- Avoid twisting your body while lifting or depositing snow
- Walk snow over to the discard pile rather than throw it
If your snowblower does the heavy lifting, review this snowblower safety article before firing it up.