By WIN Contributor: Shauna Pierrynowski, PTA, RNCP
With the first snow finally here, the team members at WIN Health Solutions see our fair share of lower back injuries due to … you guessed it snow shoveling! I am a huge fan of getting outside to enjoy what mother earth brings us... including snow. It's a beautiful time of year that can bring crisp, cold air and plenty of fun!
With the winter season upon us it's important to remember a few tips when attempting to clear our driveways, walkways and sidewalks. Often, snow hits when we least expect it and we can be unprepared. We can far too often be in a hurry and can easily cause stress on our lower back, create muscle strains, fatigue too quickly and expose ourselves to harsh weather conditions if we're not prepared.
Did you know that when loading a shovel that weighs over 1 kg with 5 kg of snow every 5 seconds you can lift over 70kg of snow per min, that is a lot of repetition and strain on your body!!
Here are a few tips to help you stay safe over this often long and random Niagara winter.
1. Warm up first. Walk a little bit or march on the spot while swinging your arms to warm up the body and create blood flow.
2. Pace yourself by taking breaks and applying the work and rest rule. If you experience any pain stop.
3. Push the snow, do not lift. Pushing puts less strain on your spine than lifting does.
4. Do not toss snow over your shoulder.
5. Check your clothing. Dress in several layers of lightweight, breathable clothing with a base layer to start. Cover your hands, head and wear proper boots that are water resistant.
6. Shovel size should be 1.5 kg (little over 3lbs) and the handle of the shovel should reach the users chest to reduce bending.
7. Work at a steady pace, shoveling only small, manageable amounts at a time.
8. Lift properly. Hold shovel close to your body, space hands apart for leverage, bend from your knees not your back.
9. If the temperature happens to fall below -25c when windy do not attempt to go outside to shovel.
And finally... recognize the danger signs. If you experience discomfort or heaviness in the chest, arms, neck; unusual or prolonged shortness of breath; dizzy, excessive sweating or nausea and vomiting STOP and call 911.
We at WIN Health Solutions want you to have a safe and fun winter season. So bundle up and get outside.
CCOHS – Canadian centre for occupational health and safety.