Four quick tips for safe snow shoveling this winter

Four quick tips for safe snow shoveling this winter

By SFM Mutual Insurance Company

If your school leadership duties include helping assure safe and effective snow removal, you know that icy and snowy conditions on your school’s sidewalks and parking lots can lead to slip-and-fall injuries.

You do your best to keep the school’s sidewalks and parking lots free of ice and snow. You care about preventing injuries for everyone who visits your school buildings. However, it’s just as important to be mindful about preventing workplace injuries that can happen during snow removal.

Follow these four tips to reduce the risk of injuries while shoveling snow, so you and your team can get back inside safely.

1. Start by being physically ready

Before getting ready to shovel snow, our bodies need to be ready to handle the job safely to avoid injury or significant discomfort. The risks that go along with shoveling include “a potential for exhaustion, dehydration, back injuries, or heart attacks,” according to OSHA.

Before and during shoveling, remember to:

  • Drink plenty of water for hydration.
  • Warm up: Stretch your arms, shoulders, back, and legs.
  • Understand your physical limitations and do not push beyond them.

If you have any underlying health conditions that might make shoveling risky for you, strongly consider asking for help or seek other alternatives.

2. Prevent slips and falls due to ice

Check for icy spots first and take care of them immediately. Be aware that other icy spots may be hidden by snow.

Wear boots and/or traction footwear to significantly reduce the chances of slips and falls. Vendors like Due North offer traction footwear products.

3. Use proper shoveling techniques

Good technique will reduce the chance for injury when shoveling, especially to your back and shoulders. It’s also a way to reduce the chance of slipping and falling.

Be sure to:

  • Push the shovel with your strong leg muscles, not your arms and shoulders.
  • Try to push the snow instead of lifting it.
  • If you must lift the snow, lift the shovel just like you lift anything else – keep your knees bent, feet wide, and head up. Work to maintain the neutral curve in your lower back.
  • Keep one foot ahead of the other. This will give you more power and produce far less strain on your lower back.
  • Keep your arms as close to your body as pos­sible for power, stability, and to reduce strain.
  • Avoid twisting your upper body. Keep your feet in alignment with your torso.

4. Take it slow in the snow

Work at a safe pace to help avoid injury. Working too fast may cause you to slip and fall more often or tire quickly. And when you’re tired, you may forget to use proper techniques, which could cause discomfort or pain.

Take short breaks when shoveling and don’t over-exert yourself or allow yourself to overheat.

Following these four tips for safer snow shoveling can reduce the risk of slips, falls, and other injuries this winter.

More winter safety resources

For more helpful winter safety tips, see SFM’s other resources:

Visit the SFM Mutual Insurance Company website at for more information.

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