Hazards of Snow Shoveling-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hazards of Snow Shoveling

As we prepare for another winter, it will not be long before the snow starts to fly. Living in Pittsburgh, we can expect to have at least a few snow storms where there could be some significant snow to shovel.

According to researchers at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, around 195,000 people were treated in emergency rooms from 1990 to 2006 for snow shoveling related injuries. Most of the injuries were from slips and falls but seven percent were heart related problems.   In cold weather blood vessels can constrict; couple that with a small blockage in the heart and that can spell big trouble. Also, if people are not exercising regularly the sudden exertion can be a stain on the heart.

It is a good idea, not just for snow shoveling, but your overall health, to participate in a regular exercise program. Remember to dress warm, in layers to avoid hypothermia and frostbite. Pay special attention to your hands, feet, face and head. Wearing a heavy jacket and gloves can help cushion your fall if you slip on snow and ice.

If you become short of breath or feel your heart racing, take a break and don't push yourself too hard. Make sure you have a snow shovel that you can handle easily and use proper lifting techniques to avoid back strain. If you know it's going to be a big storm try to shovel a couple of inches  several times instead of letting the snow build up.

By: Michael Fouch, mfouch@andrew.cmu.edu, 412-268-3221