This is what it looks like at our house today. I know – I live in Canada so I should be used to this. Can I just point out though that just an hour east or west of me they have NO snow and even within my own city where the official snowfall is listed as 30 cm (a foot for those of you in the US), apparently a few neighbourboods got well over 70 cm. Guess who lives in one of those neighbourhoods?
Anyway, I always call someone to come and do our snow removal – with my back and other health concerns, it just makes sense and is worth the money to me. (Side note: in the London, Ontario area, I’ve found people who willing take care of snow removal from my driveway and walkway for anywhere from $10-$35). But, after seeing some neighbours out there taking care of their driveways, it got me to thinking about safe snow removal.
I think the biggest thing that many people don’t take into consideration is that snow removal is exercise. I’ve seen people who feel that they aren’t healthy enough for exercise go out there and deal with their own snow removal. Even using a snow blower requires enough effort to be of concern for some people. If you are elderly, have heart disease or high blood pressure, are a smoker, or lead a sedentary lifestyle, you’re going to want to think twice about taking care of your own snow removal. In fact, if you have ANY health issues, it’s a really good idea to check with your doctor before you attempt shovelling the snow from your walkway and/or driveway.
Now since I hire a snowplow to come and take care of my home, I wait until the snow has stopped falling before I get them to come out (gotta pinch those pennies!) but if you are shovelling the snow yourself, it’s better to do it more than once if possible. Fresh snow is lighter than the packed snow and you can avoid straining your back and your heart by dealing with it in lighter layers. Because it is exercise, you really should warm up your muscles before heading outside. You can just walk around the house or in place for 10-15 minutes.
Once warmed up, it’s a good idea to stretch a bit too – reaching up over your head, bending to the floor as if to touch your toes, gentle twisting from the waist, and so on can help. Take frequent breaks – I know, I know – once you are all bundled up and out there in the cold it can be tempting to just stick it out until you’re done but that leads to injuries. Even just shovelling for 5-10 minutes and then stopping for a few minutes without coming back inside is better than no breaks at all. Better yet, how about sharing the job with others in your household? Take shifts and split up the workload.
- Drink water to make sure you are well-hydrated before heading outside. Drink some more when you get back inside.
- Although it’s tempting to use as large a shovel as possible in order to get it done faster, once again, this is just asking for trouble. Smaller lighter loads are much better.BEND FROM THE KNEES NOT YOUR BACK. Try not to twist as you lift. And,pushing the snow is much better than trying to lift it. Whatever you do, don’t try to throw the snow from your shovel to the snow pile. If you must dump a load of snow from your shovel, walk over to the snow pile with it. Don’t use too large a shovel. You can even find ones that have ergonomic curved handles to help ease fatigue and prevent injuries. Give that shovel a spray a silicone lubricant to keep the snow from sticking to it.
- Of course anyone who lives in Canada, or any place else where this kind of weather is “normal”, should already know this but it’s worth a reminder to say that it’s best to dress in layers when you’re going to be outside in winter weather. Try to cover as much of your skin as you can. If you’re wearing a scarf and using a snow blower, be especially sure that scarf is tucked inside your coat so there’s no risk of getting caught in the machinery. Personally I find it warmer that way anyway! Make sure your ears and the top of your head are covered. Wear mittens as they are usually warmer than gloves – or do what I do and wear a thin pair of gloves with mittens over top. BE SURE your boots are warm, waterproof, and that they have non-slip soles.
Note: I’m not a doctor and am not attempting to give medical advice. These are just tips I’ve learned from living in Canada for over 40 years. Please check with your doctor before attempting to clear snow!