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Oct 30, 2020

6 min. read

Avoiding injury while you clear your driveway and sidewalk.

What's that list of life's certainties again? Death, taxes—and snow during a Manitoba winter. A thick layer of the white stuff makes for a pretty scene, but also treacherous walking—which is why, in most municipalities, homeowners and residents must remove snow and ice from sidewalks, paths and driveways on or near their property following a snowfall.* But shovelling gets a little easier and safer if you use the right gear and correct technique.

  • Dress the part. Wear layers to keep warm and dry (but not so many that you restrict your movement). Also wear a good toque, padded gloves to prevent blisters, and sturdy boots with good tread.

  • Stretch it out. Shovelling is exercise, so warm up to the task. Do some light stretches, focusing on arms, legs and back. Don't forget: If you have a heart condition, avoid shovelling altogether.

  • Select and prep your shovel.The handle should be ergonomically curved and long enough so you don't have to bend much while using it. And favour a smaller blade size: pushing and lifting lighter loads reduces your chance of injury. Spray blade with silicon lubricant to prevent snow from sticking.

  • Get a grip. Protect against a nasty fall by spreading salt or sand on any particularly slippery spots that you may have to traverse or stand on while shovelling. Also, consider using ice cleats on your footwear to improve your traction.

  • Focus on posture. Push snow as far to the edge of driveway as possible before you have to lift it into a pile. Keep your back straight as you push. Periodically switch between shovelling right- and left-handed.

  • Lift straight. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, bend at knees and scoop up small-to-medium amounts of snow. Keep shovel blade closeto you to minimize back strain. Try not to twist your body when lifting and heaving snow.

  • Take breaks and rehydrate. In frigid temperatures, moisture is being rapidly pulled from your body, but you may not notice the signs of dehydration. Allow yourself occasional water or hot cocoa breaks.

  • Shovel in stages. Deeper—and especially wetter—snow means heavier loads. Instead of shovelling it all at once, skim half off the top and do a second pass for the rest.

  • Pile it up. If space allows, throw snow farther from your driveway at the start of the job, then dump it progressively closer. As you grow more tired from shovelling, you'll have a shorter distance to heave the snow.

Home Sense: Protect your property with these snow-smart tips.

Shovel snow away from your home's foundation to guard against seepage with the spring thaw.

Keep furnace and dryer vents clear. Blocked vents can be a fire hazard and can cause carbon monoxide buildup in your home.

If you can, clear snow at least a metre from the edge of your roof to reduce the risk of ice damming and leaks. Take care not to damage shingles and flashing, and if you use a ladder, always have a spotter.

To de-ice vehicle windows, mix two parts isopropyl rubbing alcohol with one part water: Spray it on, wait a minute for ice to melt, then wipe dry with an old towel.

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