While the East Coast dealt with a lot of snow last week, here in Minnesota we haven't had to worry too much about the snow so far this winter, until now. This evening, most people will be grabbing their shovels and getting to work clearing driveways, making this a good time to brush up on a few shoveling tips. 

Shoveling is something that we in the north know can be really good exercise, but there are also some dangers that can come with shoveling snow. In addition to the risks of slipping and falling and back injuries, shoveling can also greatly increase blood pressure and heart rate, which can increase the likelihood of a heart attack. Let’s all stay safe this winter and keep in mind a few safety tips!

Tips for safe snow shoveling:

  • Let someone know that you are headed outside and when you anticipate being done
  • Hydrate! Dehydration can happen in any season, so drink some water
  • Dress appropriately! This includes hats, mittens, scarves, coat and boots with good traction. Depending on the conditions, you may also want snowpants.
  • If it is slippery outside, have some sand, rock salt or kitty litter handy to sprinkle and give a little traction
  • Stretching before you begin can reduce injury
  • Take breaks every 15-20 minutes
  • Choose a plastic blade over metal to keep the weight lower
  • A smaller blade helps you to not overload the shovel and lift too much (a full shovel full of wet snow can weigh 25 pounds)
  • Look for a shovel with a curved handle to minimize bending
  • When possible, push the snow to the side rather then scooping and lifting
  • When you do need to lift, do it from the legs, not the back
  • Avoid twisting the back to dump snow off of the shovel and instead turn the entire body
  • Do not throw or toss the snow onto the pile, walk to the pile and then empty your shovel
  • If you feel as though shoveling is not a good choice for you, look into a snow blower, or also a snow removal service

Should you become short of breath or lightheaded, stop and rest. If you feel tightness in the chest or throat, or arm discomfort, seek medical assistance immediately. Before you begin shoveling, consult your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough for the task.

A safety tip for your home: make sure roof vents are clear of snow, and that your carbon monoxide detector is working and has batteries.

Once you’re done shoveling your own drive and have taken a break, help out any elderly or disabled neighbors who might not be able to do that task themselves. I am sure that the people you help will be grateful and you might even be rewarded with some baked goods! And if you have a snow blower help out a couple of people and enjoy the good karma coming your way!

These tips have been put together with the help of the Snow and Ice Management Association and the NDSU Extension Service.