A Blanket of Snow is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

You’re ready right?  That white stuff is on its way. Let’s review how not to visit the emergency room this winter.

Shoveling – There are over 11,500 injuries and medical emergencies each year from shoveling.

  • Remember your back:
    • Curved handles help you keep your back straighter
    • Metal shovels are heavier than the newer composites
    • Smaller shovels help limit the loads you lift
    • Consider the handle length – longer or shorter – what’s more comfortable
    • Push the snow, rather than lift – there are shovels made just for pushing snow
    • Don’t throw the snow over your shoulder, twisting is a sure path to injury
    • Beware slippery concrete after shoveling – slipping on ice is common and can be prevented
    • General tips and info
      • People over age 55 are four times more likely to be hurt or suffer a heart attack
      • Take frequent breaks and dress in layers
      • If the snow is heavy or there’s lots of it – start early and shovel light loads often
      • Don’t overdo it! Snow shoveling is hard work – stop at the first sign of any pain

Snow Blowing – Each year snow blower operators suffer more than 500 amputations and over 5,000 emergency room visits.

  • Safety First
    • Finger amputations are common
      • Keep hands and fingers away from moving parts – simple, but easy to forget
      • Motor recoil – the motor and blades can spring back after being turned off – removing a hand or finger
      • Keep the safety shields and guards on switches in place
      • Use clearing tool for jams – snow or newspaper
  • Remember the engine is hot and will burn unprotected skin
  • Fifteen is the considered the minimum age to safely operate a snow blower
  • Watch the cord on electric snow blowers – if it gets caught you could receive a shock or be electrocuted
  • Refuel outside in open air and never when the engine is running or hot
  • Never leave the snow blower running when you pop into the house for a moment
  • Consider using your leaf blower as an alternative – it can be useful for light snow, steps, walkways or cars
  • In addition to de-icing salts, kitty litter can provide traction and heated sidewalk mats can melt the snow/ice
  • Consider your limits – it may be time to hire help

Stay on top of the winter weather - don’t get snowed under when shoveling or snow blowing.

Kathi Hegranes is the injury prevention and outreach coordinator at the Trauma Center at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah.