Winter weather: How to shovel, remove snow safely

As snow falls, homeowners need to keep up on snow removal.

But simple snow shoveling could land some in the emergency room if they don’t follow some simple guidelines.

“Picking up a shovel and moving hundreds of pounds of snow, particularly after doing nothing physical for several months, can put a big strain on the heart,” Harvard Health executive editor Patrick Skerrett has written in the past.

Cold temperatures can also increase heart rate and blood pressure. Blood can clot easier and constrict arteries, decreasing blood supply, the National Safety Council reported.

From 1990-2006, 1,647 people died from heart issues related to shoveling snow, the BBC reported. The average is about 100 people a year die from shoveling-related heart attacks.


So how can you keep yourself safe while doing the winter chore?

The National Safety Council said:

  • Don't shovel after eating.
  • Don't smoke and shovel.
  • Shovel fresh, powdery snow.
  • Push the snow instead of lifting it.
  • If you must lift, use a small shovel or partially fill the shovel.
  • Lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Don't work until you're exhausted.

If you have history of heart disease, ask a doctor before attempting to shovel and if you feel tightness in the chest or dizziness while shoveling, stop.

If you opt for a snowblower instead of a shovel, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons offer these snowblower safety tips:

  • If it jams, turn it off.
  • Keep hands away from moving parts.
  • Don't drink alcohol.
  • Be aware of carbon monoxide risk in an enclosed space.
  • Refuel only when the blower is off, not while it’s running
Comments on this article