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Clearing snow brings risks

Snow removal safetyWhen winter wraps us in a blanket of snow, we grab a shovel or start the snowblower. But big snowstorms – and even everyday snowfalls – bring a risk of injury or death by shoveling.

So, why so many deaths? Shoveling snow is just another household chore, right?

Not really, says the American Heart Association. While most people won’t have a problem, shoveling snow can put some people at risk of heart attack. Sudden exertion, like moving hundreds of pounds of snow after being sedentary for several months, can put a big strain on the heart. Pushing a heavy snow blower also can cause injury.

And, there’s the cold factor. Cold weather can increase heart rate and blood pressure. This is true even in healthy people. Individuals over the age of 40 or who are relatively inactive should be particularly careful.

The National Safety Council recommends the following tips to shovel safely:

  • Do not shovel after eating or while smoking.
  • Take it slow and stretch before you begin.
  • Shovel only fresh, powdery snow; it’s lighter.
  • Push the snow rather than lifting it.
  • If you do lift it, use a small shovel or only partially fill the shovel.
  • Lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Do not work to the point of exhaustion.
  • Know the signs of a heart attack, and stop immediately and call 911 if you’re experiencing any of them; every minute counts.
  • Don’t pick up that shovel without a doctor’s permission if you have a history of heart disease. A clear driveway is not worth your life.

Snow blower safety
In addition to possible heart strain from pushing a heavy snow blower, be safe with tips from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, including:

  • If the blower jams, turn it off.
  • Keep your hands away from the moving parts.
  • Be aware of the carbon monoxide risk of running a snow blower in an enclosed space.
  • Add fuel outdoors, before starting, and never add fuel when it is running.
  • Never leave it unattended when it is running.

Playing on a huge snow pile
Kids love sliding down huge piles of snow in the wintertime. But sometimes, the snow pile is near or even directly underneath power lines, and they could get too close to the lines.

It’s important to pile cleared snow a good distance away from the lines. As soon as kids see a big pile of snow, they want to slide down it, and they could get too close to the lines.


Assume power lines are energized
Assume all power lines are energized and stay clear of any downed or damaged power lines.

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