Snow Blowing And Shoveling Safety

BINGHAMTON, NY - Fighting the accumulation of snow and ice in winter will always be a challenge, but it shouldn't be life threatening. Each year, however, many people end up in emergency rooms because they underestimated the rigors of shoveling snow, or failed to take precautions while snowblowing.

"This year, follow these common sense safety rules to avoid becoming an unnecessary casualty of the winter weather," said Diane O'Hora, Director of Health Education for the Broome County Health Department.

"Older persons and those with back problems should not attempt to shovel snow," she said. "An older person has a greater risk of slipping on ice or snow and breaking a wrist, hip, arm or leg. Also, a back injury can be caused or aggravated by strenuous lifting," she said.

Others who are at high risk when shoveling snow are those who are overweight, have high blood pressure, or have had heart problems.

To prevent muscle strain, it is helpful to stretch before shoveling. Some other tips to prevent injury and strain are:

  • Scoop in a forward motion.
  • Move your feet together, as closely as possible.
  • Lift with your legs and bend at the knees.
  • Toss without twisting. Twisting with a load puts a dangerous strain on your back.

Carelessness while operating a snowblower is another leading cause of injuries during the winter. "An injury often results when an operator tries to clear clogged snow or objects from the snowblower without first shutting off the motor. The proper procedure is to turn the engine off, then use a stick or other device to clear the obstruction," Ms. Chytilo said.

She offered these snowblower safety tips:

  • Work carefully and keep your hands, feet and clothing well away from the working parts of the machine.
  • Always be sure of your footing, especially when operating the snowblower in reverse gear.
  • Never leave your snowblower running and unattended.
  • Make sure the discharge chute is not aimed at passing pedestrians or vehicles.
  • Always discharge the machine's power drive, and stop the motor before making adjustments.
  • Know how to shut the machine off quickly, if the need arises.
  • To prevent explosions and fires, never add fuel when the engine is running or hot.
  • To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, never run the machine while it is indoors, such as in a garage.
  • To prevent shock, electrically-powered snowblowers should only be operated with a three-wire, grounded extension cord and plug.
  • Always keep your snowblower in good working order.
  • When you purchase your machine, look for such safety features as shields on power-driven parts.

"Be sure to read your owner's manual, and give your snowblower a thorough safety check before each use this winter," she said. "And, make sure that friends and neighbors who ask to use your machine know how to operate it safely."

For more information on snow blowing and shoveling safety, call the Broome County Health Department at 607.778.3921.