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Snow removal: Choose the right equipment

Photo: Kristen Prahl/iStockphoto

Planning to head outside with a shovel after a snowfall? It’s important to pick the right one. According to the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety, the handle of your snow shovel should reach your chest “to reduce the amount of forward bending.” A D-shaped handle is ideal to avoid putting your wrist in awkward positions.

The handle should allow for a firm grip all the way around, says Lisa Cannada, an orthopaedic trauma surgeon at Saint Louis University Hospital, associate professor at Saint Louis University and American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons board member. She doesn’t recommend all-metal snow shovels, which she says can get stuck in the ice and snow and lead to a jammed wrist or other injury.

The National Safety Council recommends the following for safe shoveling:

  • Take it slow and stretch beforehand.
  • Shovel only fresh, powdery snow – it’s lighter.
  • Push the snow rather than lift it.
  • If you do lift it, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel.
  • Lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Don’t work yourself to the point of exhaustion.
  • Know the signs of a heart attack (chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea), and stop immediately and call 911 if you’re experiencing any of them.

If you’re planning on using a snowblower instead, the AAOS offers the following safety tips:

  • If the blower jams, turn it off.
  • Keep your hands away from moving parts.
  • Never run a snowblower in an enclosed space.
  • Add fuel outdoors, before starting, and never add fuel when the machine is running.
  • Never leave a running snowblower unattended.

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