Canadians have long been accustomed to cold snowy winters and months of shovelling driveways and sidewalks. As much as we all dread it, clearing snow is just part of our regular winter routine. So, before you head out to do your winter duty, consider some of these tips from Toronto Emergency Medical Services (TEMS), to help keep yourself safe and healthy all winter long.

1. Get Prepared
  • Shovelling is strenuous and very stressful on the heart. Speak to your doctor to determine if this activity is right for you. If unable to do it yourself, investigate a snow removal service, buy a snow blower, or pay a student to clear if for you.

  • Get your body warmed up by marching on the spot for several minutes.

  • Pace yourself. TEMS recommends shovelling for 5-7 minutes and then resting for 2-3 minutes.

  • Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water before, during and after.

  • Keep on top of the snow buildup. New snow is lighter than snow that’s been packed down for several days.

2. Get The Right Tools
  • A good shovel is sturdy yet lightweight, has a small plastic blade instead of a large metal blade, is ergonomically correct with a curved handle to help reduce injury and make the task easier, and can be coated with shortening or vegetable oil to make snow slide off more easily.
  • Dress appropriately: wear multiple layers that give maximum coverage of your skin. Cover your head and neck with a hat and scarf, find a good pair of mittens or gloves and wear boots that have non-skid/no-slip rubber soles.
3. Get The Right Technique

Deep snow is difficult to lift so only tackle small amounts at a time. Push the snow rather than lifting it and follow these guidelines from TEMS to help protect your back:

  • balance yourself by standing with feet at hip width apart
  • keep the shovel close to your body
  • space your hands on the shaft of the shovel to increase leverage
  • always bend at your knees, not your back
  • tighten your stomach muscles while lifting
  • don’t twist your body while lifting
  • dump the snow aside rather than throwing it