Tips and Tricks for Safe Snow Shoveling

No one likes to shovel

Warm up first.  Your muscles need a chance to warm up for the physical exertion which shoveling places on them.  Cold, tight muscles are more prone to injury than warmed up, flexible muscles.  Pace yourself and slowly build up your speed of shoveling over the first 5 minutes.  Stretch out any stiff or aching muscles after you have warmed up properly.

Use a good snow shovel.  A good snow shovel has a long handle to minimize the amount of bending required to lift the snow.  Ideally it should have a no-stick surface (use a spray on cooking oil) to make the shoveling process less fatiguing.  Ergonomic shovels with a bend in the handle have been shown to decrease the amount of bending required by 16%.  Click on the image (below) for more information about snow shovels.

Move snow short distances.  Remove small amounts of snow frequently as opposed to removing large piles all at once.  A good strategy to minimize the amount of snow pushed is to begin by clearing the perimeter of the area being shoveled first.  Then begin shoveling from the middle of that area towards the edges.

Use proper snow shoveling techniques. 

  • Use your leg muscles as much as possible – push snow when you can and use your legs to lift when you can’t push it.
  • Bend at the hips, not the low back, and push the chest out, pointing forward. Then, bend your knees and lift with your leg muscles, keeping your back straight.
  • Keep your loads light by taking multiple smaller scoops when lifting snow.
  • If you must lift a shovel full, grip the shovel with one hand as close to the blade as comfortably possible and the other hand on the handle (handle and arm length will vary the technique).
  • Avoid twisting the back to move your object to its new location – always pivot your whole body to face the new direction.
  • Keep the heaviest part of the object close to your body at your center of gravity – do not extend your arms to throw the snow.
  • Walk to the new location to deposit the snow rather than reaching or tossing.
  • If you are “pushing” (such as clearing a driveway) hold your shovel at a slight angle and begin making passes back and forth width-wise along your driveway. You should rarely need to move your shovel above waist height.

Cover up but don’t overdress.  You need to stay warm, but if you overdress you’re going to be soaked in sweat in no time. Wear loose-fitting layers that you can peel off as you heat up.   Wear shoes or boots with good treads to minimize the risk of slipping.  Don’t forget to put sunscreen on your face and any exposed areas to protect your skin from the sun rays reflecting off the snow.How to Choose the Best Snow Shovel

How to Choose the Correct Snow Shovel

 Click on the picture for a link to more information on types of shovels.

City plows WILL return and plow snow into your clean driveway.  Residents are reminded that City plows will return to fully clean the street, most likely AFTER you have shoveled your driveway!  Having to shovel the driveway a second time after the snow plow passes, can be frustrating.  Clear an area before your driveway large enough for the snow coming off the blade to be deposited - later you can put your trash and recycling toters there.  Use the tips on this graphic to make your "Second Shovel" easier.  You can also check out a video from the Missouri Dept of Transportation for more on this technique.  The City of Stamford does NOT respond to special requests, we don't have the manpower.

Avoid the "Second Shovel"

Be a good neighbor.  Check on your senior neighbors during storms, shovel your mailbox (maybe theirs too), and dig out fire hydrants in your area.