How to Shovel Snow
Make sure you shovel snow the right—and safe—way.
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.