Rules for Snow Removal Safety
Heavy snowfall has been the focus of weather reports on the evening news in many parts of the country this winter. So hard hit are some areas that folks are literally stranded – unable to back their cars out of their driveways. Those are the lucky ones. Some people can’t even find their cars among all of the “white stuff.”
Snow is great for skiing or for children to romp around in, but it can cause major problems where the home is concerned. Excessive snowfall can result in everything from a cracked chimney to a collapsed roof. What’s more, the energy required cleaning up after a major snowstorm could trigger health problems or even result in a heart attack. Placing your best foot forward before things get out of hand can make for good personal health along with a healthy home.
One of our dad’s favorite sayings was, “don’t send a boy to do a man’s job.” Yet another bit of dad’s wisdom was; “whenever possible, use your head instead of your back.” Thus, when dealing with snow, dad would advise that a good strong snow shovel would be okay for light snowfall. However, when faced with major amounts of snow, we are certain that dad would recommend bringing in the “big gun” – a snowthrower or contacting a snow removal service.
Aside from being a real timesaver, a snow thrower can prevent many serious injuries associated with shoveling snow by hand. More on this later.
Unfortunately, using a snow thrower is not without danger. Approximately 6,000 consumers receive hospital emergency treatment annually for injuries sustained while using a snow thrower. A majority of these injuries occurred when people placed their hands where they don’t belong – the machines auger area – trying to clear out snow and debris. Accordingly, if you stick your hand in the collector or discharge chute, you run the risk of severely injuring your hands or fingers, and even risk amputation.
Therefore, when operating a snow thrower, keep the following safety tips in mind:
- Always stop the engine if you need to make a repair or adjustment. If you need to unclog the chute or auger, use a push stick or something similar – don’t use your hands.
- Always keep feet and hands away from any moving parts.
- Always keep the gasoline can capped and store it out of the house. Add fuel to the tank outdoors before starting the machine and not when the engine is running or hot.
- Always shut down the engine if you must leave the equipment for any length of time.
- Always check the snow thrower each time you need to use it and refer to the owner’s manual for care and maintenance.
- If your snow thrower is electric, always know where the power cord located.
If a snow blower is more horsepower than you’ll need, a snow shovel runs a distant second, but can be equally dangerous. Don’t shovel snow if you don’t exercise regularly or if you have a history of heart problems or obesity.
Furthermore, unless you exercise regularly, don’t shovel snow if you are older than 55. The strain from the cold and hard labor may cause a heart attack. If you must shovel, do it properly. Take it show. Lift small amounts only using proper posture to prevent back strain. Keep your back straight and lift gently from the knees and hips. Don’t throw or fling snow over your shoulders. Take frequent breaks and stop immediately if you feel pain or become short of breath.
Dress for cold weather. Wear a hat. Fifty percent of your body heat is lost through your head. Also, dress in layers. You can take off a layer if you get too warm. Woolen pants will keep you warmer than jeans, corduroys or sweatpants. Don’t forget to wear long underwear to pull moisture away from your skin. Wear gloves or mittens and replace wet clothing immediately.
Drink hot cider, soup or broth. They warm you and five you nutrients and energy. Coffee and tea, so popular on cold days, actually cool the body. Drinking beverages with alcohol or caffeine will make you more susceptible to cold weather emergencies such as hypothermia.
Personal health and safety are major concerns after a snowfall. According to the American Red Cross, accidental deaths occur most frequently in January, when an estimated 1,000 people die from falls outside the house. To increase safety of family, friends and neighbors, keep your walkways and driveways free from snow and ice. Snow blowers and ice-melting granules make the process much easier and less physically demanding. Act early. It’s easiest to remove snow immediately following a snowfall, before it becomes packed or turns to ice. You can help prevent ice from forming by spreading ice melters when heavy wet snow, sleet or freezing rain begins. Reapply later after removing any accumulation. Calcium nitrate or a garden fertilizer containing urea is an effective alternative to a chemical deicing compound. Your won’t ruin the soil or harm or kill shrubs and trees.