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5 Snow Shovelling Tips for Preventing Injury

As Canadians, it’s important that we don’t underestimate the difficulty of shovelling snow.

To maintain a clear driveway and protect your body, take note of these 5 tips to help prevent unnecessary back strain.

Choose the right shovel

Making the job as efficient as possible with no pain begins with the right shovel. If your snow shovel is damaged, flimsy, or otherwise no longer comfortable for you to work with, buy a new one.

The best option is a shovel you can handle easily. Try them out as you shop by wearing the gloves you’ll use outside and make the same motions you would to clear snow. Choose a sturdy shovel with a maximum weight of 3 lbs, and a handle that comes up to your chest in order to reduce the amount of bending you’ll have to do.

Warm up!

Stretching before you begin is necessary to avoid pulled muscles. While you’re still indoors, stretch your hamstrings, back, and shoulders. Then dress in removable layers. You need to stay warm, but not overdressed. Wear loose-fitting layers you can take off as you heat up, and take bottles of water out with you and keep them accessible. Keeping hydrated throughout the process will help reduce muscle strain.

Shovel with a plan

Before you even take your first scoop, decide where you’re going to dump the snow. Make sure not to block access to snow that needs to be removed by piling it up in a way that will make have to move it twice.

Start by shovelling a line along the edge of the driveway, on the side that the wind is coming from. After that, shovel snow from that path to the opposite side of the driveway. If you need to toss snow across the driveway, you will be aided by the wind. If possible, shovel throughout a snowfall. Snow is usually lighter and easier to move after it has just fallen.

Master your technique

Resist the urge to shovel too quickly to “just get the job done.” Pace yourself. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, the recommended rate for continuous shoveling tasks is considered to be about 15 scoops per minute. Shovelling at this rate shouldn’t last for longer than 15 minutes at a time, followed by a few minutes of rest.

One of the best shovelling techniques is to push snow from the center of the driveway to the sides and lift the snow from there. This reduces additional strain on the back from lifting and throwing. Bend your knees, keep your back straight, and lift with your legs. Avoid twisting – if you need to move the snow to one side, reposition your feet to face the direction the snow will be moved.

Finish right

While it’s important to be thorough with your job, don’t worry about being too meticulous. After you’ve cleared the area, spread salt over it if necessary, and then let the sun take care of the rest. The bottom line is, any pavement surface you can manage to expose in shovelling will be more effective than leaving a blanket of snow. Remaining snow will melt more easily from that darker surface. Stretch gently indoors when you’re done and remain hydrated.

A clear driveway isn’t just a point of pride, it’s a matter of safety. Your family will be walking and driving in and out on it, so take the time to do it right this winter. For other tips on preventing damage due to snow build-up around your property, refer to our Key to Prevention page.

5 Snow Shovelling Tips for Preventing Injury

Clearing your driveway in winter is an important part of creating safe access to your property. It isn’t always easy though – the stress placed on your body can cause back pain and over-exertion if you’re not doing it properly.