Winter Safety Tips: How to Shovel Safely

Five things to keep in mind before you head outside to move snow this winter
Author: Michael Hickey

There’s one good thing about shoveling snow: It counts as exercise! But it’s hard work; more than 137,000 people received medical attention for injuries related to snow shoveling in 2018. And as the American Heart Association points out, the combination of colder temperatures and physical exertion increases the strain on the heart.

That’s why it’s important for people with bleeding disorders to take certain safety precautions and use proper form to prevent injury and avoid a bleed. Before you bundle up and head outside with a shovel this winter, read these tips on how to shovel safely.

  1. Dress appropriately.

Warm, water-resistant layers will keep you snug and dry as you clear snow. Make sure to cover extremities with gloves or mittens, a hat and thick socks. Just remember that you’ll naturally warm up as you go, so dress in a way that’s easy to shed a layer or two when you start to feel hot.  

And when you’re dealing with snow, you’re likely dealing with icy, slippery areas. Avoid injury by wearing winter boots with good traction—that means rubber soles and treads designed to grip icy areas. Not sure what to buy? For an in-depth search, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute’s iDAPT research lab launched Rate My Treads, which rates the slip-resistance of dozens of shoes based on the lab’s own research. 

  1. Get your hands on the right equipment. 

Your standard shovel will do the job, but one that’s designed with ergonomics in mind will reduce the strain on your body. Look for a shovel with:

  • An angular shaft, so you stay upright more easily
  • A blade shape that can easily push and pick up snow so you can take a break from lifting—a wide scoop with a straight edge will work
  • A cushioned, D-grip handle
  1. Consider your hand placement.

When holding a shovel, put some distance between your hands to gain more leverage. This will make it easier to lift the snow, saving you time and energy.

  1. Lift with your legs, not your back.

Proper lifting mechanics could be the difference between good exercise and a debilitating back injury. When you reach down to scoop up a pile of snow, don’t round your back or keep your legs straight. Instead, bend and lift with your knees and hips, while keeping your back straight. And be sure to keep the pile of snow close to your body to avoid unnecessary strain on your back.

  1. Take frequent breaks.

Even with proper technique, you can overexert yourself if you’re out there for hours on end. Make sure to give yourself a rest every 15 to 30 minutes to recharge and hydrate.