How Not to Die Shoveling out Your Driveway

Thousands are injured and as many as 100 Americans die each year clearing snow.

byKate Gibson| UPDATED Dec 10, 2018 9:57 PM

Across the country, snow shoveling is behind thousands of injuries and as many as 100 deaths each year.

That's according to the National Safety Council, which cautions that picking up a shovel and moving multiple pounds of the white stuff can put a large strain on the heart. That's especially true for folks who've spent the previous months doing nothing much physical.

Pushing a heavy snow blower can also cause injury, while cold weather can increase your heart rate and blood pressure, the safety council warns. The cold can make blood clot more readily and constrict arteries, which decrease blood supply. And by the way, the council adds, that's true even for healthy people.

But those over the age of 40 or who are relatively inactive should be especially careful, the organization says.

Here are the council's tips to shovel safely:

  • Do not shovel after eating or while smoking
  • Take it slow and stretch out 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

Further, if you have a history of heart disease, do not shovel without a doctor's permission. And if you feel tightness in your chest or dizziness, stop right away.

 As for snow blower safety, here's some advice from the American Society for Surgery of the Hand and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons:

  • If the blower jams, turn it off
  • Keep your hands away from the moving parts
  • Do not drink alcohol and use the snow blower
  • Be aware of the carbon monoxide risk of running a snow blower in an enclosed space
  • Refuel your snow blower when it is off, never when it is running