A fresh blanket of snow can be a pretty sight, but as a homeowner the novelty wears off quickly when you realize that you’ve got to clear your driveway and other areas around your house. Whether you shovel, plow or snow-blow, the removal of snow and ice from your property is a necessary, and ongoing, task throughout the winter months to keep your home safe and to accommodate local by-laws. Most municipalities require that steps, landings, walks, driveways, parking spaces and ramps etc. be cleared of snow and ice within 24 hours of a snowfall to provide safe access for people and vehicles. But aside from that, no one wants to have to trudge through deep drifts as you try to get back-&-forth outdoors.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
If you tackle the snow ‘old school’ with a shovel, it’s important to realize that this constitutes heavy exercise. You wouldn’t jump into an intense workout at the gym with no preparation, and snow shoveling is no different.
Be sure to check with your doctor before the season begins, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.
Warm-up your muscles before you begin shoveling to try and avoid any unnecessary injuries.
Pace yourself and take frequent breaks. You’re likely moving hundreds of pounds of snow over time, so don’t be in such a hurry.
Dress appropriately in light, layered clothing that provides both ventilation and insulation. Remove layers as you heat up and be sure to keep your head and hands covered, Avoid falls by wearing shoes or boots that have slip-resistant soles.
It may be cold, but stay hydrated throughout your snow-clearing session by keeping some water handy.
Stretch gently when you're finished to help offset any residual aches & pains.
Understand the health risks of working in cold weather such as frostbite and hypothermia. Also be familiar with stress or heart-related illness symptoms, especially if you’ve had issues before. Keep a mobile phone in your pocket and make sure that someone else knows where you are and when you’ll be finished.
It seems easy enough, but you can make your task easier by following a few simple steps.
Try to clear snow early and often. Begin shoveling when a light covering of snow is on the ground to avoid dealing with packed, heavy snow.
Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength. Do not use a shovel that is too heavy or too long for you. Space your hands apart on the handle to increase your leverage.
Try to push the snow instead of lifting it. If you must lift, do it properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent, and back straight. Lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist and avoid twisting. Keep arms close to your body and walk to dump snow rather than trying to throw it.
Don't move snow twice. Give the process a little thought before you begin to avoid making any unnecessary work for yourself.
Move snow the shortest distance possible. Consider that everything from a driveway to a patio or a walkway is really just a rectangle. Move the snow from the center of the rectangle to the nearest edge to save yourself some effort.
Consider hiring a student or using a volunteer service to clear your snow if you are a senior, are injured or have any kind of health issue.
If all that stretching and lifting sounds like too much work, you can always move your snow with something motorized. Whether you choose a blower, a thrower or a plow, make sure that you are fully up to speed on how it operates and what the risks are.
Read the instruction manual. Be familiar with all of the specific maintenance, operating and safety features.
Maintain your equipment. Reading the manual is one thing, but be sure to actually do what it says. Regularly check fluid levels, belts and all moving parts, tighten handles and bolts and knock-out any dents. Also try to be strict with whatever lubrication schedule is recommended for the equipment.
No tampering. Never remove safety devices, shields, guards or switch covers. They’re there for a reason.
Safe fueling. Add fuel before starting your machine. Never add fuel when the engine is running or hot and don’t let it run in an enclosed area.
Proper supervision. Do not leave machinery unattended when it is running. Shut off the engine if you must walk away and be sure to keep kids and pets out of the area where you’re working.
Clear the area where you’ll be working. Watch for buried items in your path such as extension cords, kids toys or sleds and that annoying frozen newspaper on your driveway.
Stay safe. If you’re operating an electric snow blower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times.
Watch the hands. It may seem like common sense, but don’t touch the engine area of your machinery after it’s been running as it will be very hot. The other big thing to avoid is reaching in to clear blades with your hands. There can be recoil even with the engine off, so be sure to use something solid like a piece of wood to clear the snow and ice out.
No matter how you clear your snow, stay warm and take the time to do things safely.