Shoveling snow is an integral part of many people's winters. Especially in the north, snow can fall endlessly and greatly impede transportation, even when the mailbox is the only destination. Shoveling, then, is essential to keep the snow out of the way and to maintain a path to the mailbox, garage, or car. Shoveling snow, however, can be strenuous work; the difficult nature of the task combined with very cold weather conditions can lead to many health risks. As such, there are several tips one should follow to stay safe and to clear the driveway as quickly and thoroughly as possible.
As with any strenuous task, shoveling snow can put considerable strain on the heart. The cold air makes it harder to breathe, meaning that less oxygen enters the body. Those who have a history of heart disease, who have had a heart attack in the past, or who typically lead inactive lifestyles should check with their doctors before engaging in such a strenuous task as shoveling snow. Additionally, it is important to stay hydrated and to take breaks if necessary to reduce the strain on the heart and body.
Muscles and bones are also put at risk by the strains of shoveling snow. A significant amount of strain is placed on the back, and shoveling can lead to many back injuries. To avoid back injury, it is important to maintain good posture while shoveling. This means that the feet should stay about shoulder width apart and when it is necessary to bend over, one should bend at the knees instead of the back. Ice is also a concern; it is prudent to throw down some salt or sand to prevent slipping.
Shoveling snow invariably involves cold weather, which presents a few dangers of its own. It is important to dress appropriately to the conditions, as there are many risks to working in the cold weather. Gloves and padded boots can effectively prevent frostbite in the extremities, and a warm hat can protect the ears. Dressing in warm layers can prevent hypothermia, a condition in which the temperature of the body drops to dangerously low levels.
After shoveling snow from one's driveway, sidewalk, or other area, it is wise to sprinkle rock salt over the shoveled area. If freezing weather persists, the shoveled area could freeze over and present some danger to vehicles and people. Salt will melt the snow and ensure safety.