Winter snow storms bring a variety of challenges to employee safety. Driving becomes more dangerous, slips and falls are common, and even snow removal can be extremely hazardous.
Most of the snow removal claims we see at Friedlander are from slips and falls while shoveling, but employees are also subject to back and shoulder injuries, and less frequently, heart attacks. Nationwide, snow shoveling is responsible for approximately 100 deaths per year according to a number of studies.
Cold weather, even in healthy people, can increase heart rate and blood pressure, constrict arteries and create blood clots more easily. All of these factors lead to a dramatic increases the risk of heart attack.
The National Safety Council recommends the following tips to shovel safely:
- Do not shovel after eating or while smoking
- Warm up and stretch out before you begin
- Take it slow to start and take frequent breaks
- Shovel only fresh, powdery snow; it's lighter
- Push the snow rather than lifting it
- If you do lift it, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel
- Lift with your legs, not your back
- Do not work to the point of exhaustion
- Know the signs of a heart attack, and stop immediately and call 911 if you're experiencing any of them; every minute counts
A few extra tips to help prevent injury:
- Use an ergonomically designed shovel to reduce the amount of bending you have to do
- For large storms, shovel multiple times so you don’t have extremely deep snow to remove at the end.
- Wear layers so as you warm up you can remove a layer and maintain a comfortable body temperature.
- Stay hydrated – the combination of exertion and cold dry air will dehydrate you quickly.
Using a snow blower can prevent some of the cardiac risks of shoveling but does present some other risks. See our Snow Blower Newsletter to learn some ways to stay safe while using these machines.
When any Employees are working in cold weather, please have them review Prepare and Prevent Against Cold Illnesses safety tips to avoid life-threatening conditions.