Creston Valley Insurance shovel safely

Clear Your Walks and Driveway of Snow – How to Shovel Safely!

Keep your property safe from accident liability by clearing snow and ice. Keep yourself safe from pain and injury – shovel safely!

Our British Columbia winters are typically all over the place when it comes to weather. It can be dumping snow one day, raining the next, followed by a drop into the deep freeze within hours. It makes keeping your property safe – clear of ice and snow – a challenge.

It’s vital that you take the time to do so, however, to protect yourself from possible liability in the event of an accident by someone visiting your home or property.

One of the most common practices to keep our homes accessible and free of snow, of course, is shovelling. Unless you’ve made the investment in a blower, many of us will spend countless hours with a shovel in hand, removing snow from our walk- and driveways.

If you’re not physically prepared for the demands of snow shovelling, you could leave yourself vulnerable to pain or injury – over-exertion, a pulled muscle, or a slip and fall. There are even more dire possibilities known to occur while shovelling snow. A study from the Canadian Medical Association Journal found a link between the exertion of shovelling snow and heart attack.

It’s not unusual for our cold Canadian weather to increase heart rate and blood pressure. It also causes blood to clot more readily and makes the arteries constrict, and restrict blood flow. Add to that the sudden exertion of moving seemingly endless pounds of snow, and it can, for some, put extreme strain on the heart, putting you at risk of a heart attack.

This isn’t necessarily reason to give up shovelling! There are ways to shovel safely to ensure you get the job done and do it in a way that you protect yourself:

Prepare yourself to shovel safely

To ensure that you begin your shovel safely, there are a few things you can do to prepare:

  • Start moving your body. Light stretching – arms, shoulders, and legs – can help prevent injuries.
  • Layer your clothing to keep warm, but also to allow you to shed as you need.
  • Avoid cotton underlayers as they will only dampen as you sweat and make you cold.
  • Remember to breathe. As with exercise and yoga, exhale on the exertion.
  • Allow yourself to take a break when you need to. If you push through, you run the risk of over-exertion or potential injury. If you maintain a more sedentary lifestyle, this is especially true.

Shovel preparation

After you’ve prepared yourself physically for shovelling snow, be sure to consider prepping your shovel, too.

Spray the shovel with cooking spray or wipe it down with vegetable oil or paraffin wax before you get started to prevent the snow from sticking. When you help keep the shovel clear of clumping you can shovel easier and faster.

Shovel safely with proper technique

It’s critical that you are conscious of your shovelling form and technique:

  • As with anything you lift, be sure to bend the knees and lift the load with your legs – NOT your back!
  • As you lift the shovel, keep its blade close to your body to help reduce any strain on the back.
  • Remember to be ambidextrous! Alternate between shovelling with your right hand and left to balance the workload and exertion on the body.
  • Switch up the grip of the hand that holds the bar – palm over vs. palm over, for example.
  • When you’re clearing more than a foot of snow, don’t attempt to clear right to the ground with one shovelful. Start with the surface six inches, then move the lower six. Lifting too much in one scoop makes you vulnerable to injury.
  • Shovel while it’s snowing? Yes! Don’t be afraid to get a headstart on your shovelling. It may mean a bit more time with a shovel in your hands but the job will be easier than waiting to do it all at once.

How old is too old to keep shovelling?

The age to stop shovelling snow depends entirely on the condition of your overall health. Certainly, if you have any concerns be sure to check with your doctor before the first snowfall.

Like every activity, everyone comes with a different level of fitness and health. To ensure that you’re able to safely shovel snow for years to come, ensure that the rest of your life is one of healthy choices and activities to maintain your health.

Young or old, there are a few ways to make snow shovelling safer and easier:

  • Enlist the kids! There’s nothing wrong with including the whole family — make it fun and with more hands, it will go that much faster. Offer a tasty reward when it’s done – hot chocolate all around!
  • As mentioned, don’t hesitate to begin while it’s snowing. There’s no real advantage to waiting till the snow stops. In fact, it’s only likely to be more work and you increase your chances of over-exerting yourself.
  • Drink water. Like any exercise, proper hydration is vital to keep you energized.
  • Pay someone to do it. It may be that you’re better able to stay on top of the job when you hire it out – the kid next door or a professional service. Ultimately, it’s the safety that’s important and if you’d prefer not to do the grunt work, hire someone that will.

Be proactive. Take precautions before it snows.

To help manage the impacts of snow and ice, take a few preemptive steps to help keep your walks and driveway clear. This may surprise you, but for maximum effectiveness, salt is meant to be spread before it snows. Many of us have been laying salt after we shovel, but it’s actually meant to be used before the snow falls to prevent it from sticking. It will make your snow shovelling safer and easier, too!

Other pre-emptive measures to ice-proof can be achieved with ingredients you likely already have in your home:

  • To keep your steps, sidewalk, or driveway from collecting ice, make a treatment of brine the day before an anticipated snowfall or winter storm. Dissolve salt in hot water 24 hours in advance and simply pour a thin layer onto your walkways and steps to not only keep ice from forming but also to help make the snow easier to remove.
  • Likewise, to prevent ice from forming on your car’s windshield and windows, spray a mixture of 3:1 distilled vinegar and water before winter precipitation. Spray after ice collects to help melt it more rapidly.

Questions about your home insurance and seasonal risks? Talk to one of our knowledgable insurance brokers!