Like everyone, many organizations spend the winter digging out from snow storms. Shoveling snow can provide an opportunity for exercise, help out less-able community members, and build camaraderie. All the same, snow removal can also be risky for employees, members, volunteers and your organization.
Shoveling snow yourself can pose health risks and hiring snow removers comes with added risks to your organization. The next time it snows, make sure to follow these snow shoveling safety tips to minimize your risk of a claim.
Snow Shoveling Risks
It’s important to remember that snow is heavy — a fact that’s easy to forget after a nice long summer. Just one inch of snow weighs between 0.3 to 4.8 pounds per square foot, depending on how wet and compacted it is. With half a foot of snow, you could be moving about 20 pounds with each scoop of the shovel.
The exercise you’ll get from snow shoveling presents plenty of opportunity for injury to occur. According to the National Safety Council, shoveling snow is responsible for thousands of injuries and as many as 100 deaths each year.
Shoveling snow is often more strenuous than running on a treadmill, raising your blood pressure and heart rate more than other types of exercise. Shoveling also requires arm exercise, which is more taxing than work requiring your legs.
Besides the risk of this exercise itself, snow is also cold, wet and slippery, providing even more opportunity for accident or injury.
It’s easy to slip and fall, overexert yourself, throw out your back or have a heart issue. For those over the age of 55, the risk of lower back and cardiac-related injuries is even higher.
Snow Shoveling Safety Tips
To prevent yourself and others from experiencing accident and injury, it’s important to know the risks and take steps to stay safe. To protect your snow shoveling employees, members and volunteers, be sure to share these tips:
- Be sure to warm up your muscles and joints before shoveling with some light movements and gentle stretching.
- Dress appropriately, wearing layers to protect you from the cold and removing excess layers if you get too warm.
- Choose an ergonomically designed shovel to help reduce the amount of strain on your back and remember that plastic shovels will be lighter than metal ones.
- Avoid multitasking, waiting at least an hour after a big meal before shoveling. Hold off on cigarette breaks till later and remember to stay hydrated.
- Shovel snow when it is fresh, light and powdery and avoid shoveling wet snow and ice as it will always be much heavier.
- Try to push the snow rather than lift it. If you must lift it, use a smaller shovel or only partially fill the shovel and always lift with your legs, not your back.
- Do not work yourself to the point of exhaustion. Instead, try to keep up with the snow as it falls, or take breaks every 20–30 minutes.
- Know the signs of a heart attack, and stop immediately and call 911 if you or someone else is experiencing any of them.
Snow Removal Contractor Safety Tips
Your organization may consider hiring a snow removal service to avoid employee, member and volunteer injury. If you do so, it’s important to minimize the risk of potential problems.
Snow removal contractors you do business with should have two standard insurance policies:
- General liability insurance: This coverage protects your organization from liability lawsuits and protects the contractor from certain claims and lawsuits. This coverage is a must.
- Workers’ compensation: This coverage protects the contractor’s employees in case of an accident or injury. If your contractor’s employees will be at your property, this coverage is necessary. Check with your state for specific requirements and limits.
Also make sure your choice of snow removal contractor is licensed and bonded to do the work you hire them to do and uses a written contract that spells out the terms of your business relationship. These steps will help reduce the risk to your organization.
Last but not least, don’t forget the importance of timely clearing of snow and ice from parking lots and walkways. As an organization, you are responsible for making sure walking areas around your property are safe and clear.
Learn more about property insurance to protect your organization against property-related claims.