When a snow-covered job site has the potential to impact project cost and budget, contractors who are rushing to remove snow should know proper snow shoveling techniques to avoid back pain.
Lower back injuries are common with improper snow shoveling. Avoid the pain by following these easy steps:
1. Warm up before shoveling
Some ways to do this include jogging in place, doing squats, running up stairs, walking or stretching. Getting your muscles warmed up is a great first step before launching into the task of shoveling heavy snow.
If you’re going to be working in winter conditions for an extended period of time, consider your body heat. Plan ahead to have appropriate layers to stay warm.
Additionally, try to start shoveling early. The sooner you start when snow begins to fall, the better chance you’ll have at not having to push heavier amounts of snow.
2. Be careful of what you eat and drink before shoveling
It’s OK to eat a small snack, but it’s best to avoid heavy meals and caffeine drinks before an extended period of shoveling snow. Heavy meals divert blood to your abdomen and away from muscles, which need energy to perform well. Caffeine elevates your heart rate.
Don’t smoke before shoveling heavy snow. Cold weather limits blood flow, and so does nicotine.
3. Use an ergonomically correct shovel
Lower back pain often results from using straight shovels. An ergonomically correct shovel is usually lighter than normal shovels. It has a contoured handle that helps reduce bending and lifting.
Use a lightweight, plastic shovel if possible. This style of shovel is easier on your body than a heavier shovel.
4. Use the right shoveling technique
Individuals often attempt to lift snow, when they should actually be pushing it. It’s important not to overload a shovel, scooping small amounts of snow at a time.
If you must lift, bend your knees, keep your feet hip-width apart, and keep your back straight. Lift with your legs and not your back, and avoid twisting or throwing snow over your shoulder.
It’s also important to keep the heaviest part of the shovel close to your body, near your center of gravity.
5. Take a breather
If you find yourself shoveling for a long time on the job site, be sure to take breaks every 15 minutes. Stretch, walk around and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
It’s also important to be mindful of pains, chest discomfort and shortness of breath. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, have someone else shovel for a while. It’s OK to take turns.
Follow the right snow shoveling techniques to avoid back pain this winter
Health and safety should always be considered when performing any job. Be sure to consider these steps before shoveling snow on the job site this winter.