Whether you’re a homeowner, landlord, or renter, shoveling snow may be a chore you don’t enjoy. However, it's often unavoidable in areas where snowfall is typical this time of year. Not removing snow from your driveway or sidewalk can lead to many issues such as injuries, fines, or even death. And, if you’re a landlord or renter, you can never assume that the other person is responsible for snow removal.
With several weeks of winter remaining, here’s some information to help you survive shoveling snow until spring arrives.
Who’s responsible for shoveling snow?
As a homeowner, keeping your property clear of snow is your responsibility, and it’s essential if you want to avoid injury to a guest or a neighbor enjoying a winter stroll. If your city has a snow removal ordinance, make sure you understand it and get the job done. Usually, ordinances require removal within 24 to 48 hours. You may be subject to a fine if your property isn’t cleared in the specified time frame.
If you’re a landlord or renter, who will handle the snow removal duties may be a bit unclear. If you’re a tenant in a single-family home, you may be responsible for snow removal. However, multi-family rental properties that have common walkways are usually the responsibility of the landlord or management company. Either way, putting this information into the lease agreement is the best way to go for all parties involved.
Snow removal safety tips
While shoveling snow may seem like just another everyday household chore, it’s not. Depending on the moisture in the snow or the number of inches you get, it can be very heavy. Heavy snow can lead to significant exertion, as well as bending and twisting in ways your body isn’t used to. This is especially true if you live a sedentary life. Here are some tips to consider before you pick up your shovel.
1. Warm up appropriately. If you exercise regularly or actively participate in a sport, shoveling snow may seem like no big deal. However, warming up is critical to preventing injuries. Cold weather makes muscles, ligaments, and tendons tighten. Engage in light exercises and gentle stretching before shoveling.
2. Don’t jump out of bed. Often, storms dump several inches of snow overnight, causing a rough start to the morning. If you’re responsible for shoveling snow in your household, never jump out of bed and immediately start shoveling. Most heart attacks occur in the morning, so wait at least 30 minutes before shoveling.
3. Don’t shovel after dinner. As a homeowner, I’ve often done this over the years. In fact, I sometimes considered shoveling snow as a license to eat. After all, you need energy to shovel, right? To aid digestion, blood is diverted from your heart to your stomach. Because vigorous activity can put additional strain on your body, it’s best to wait at least 30 minutes before shoveling. By waiting, you can also help avoid heartburn or unexpected reflux.
4. Avoid drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol before shoveling can affect your balance and judgment and can give you the sensation of being warm.
5. Take frequent breaks. Shoveling snow is an aerobic exercise. Shoveling heavy snow can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. If you’re feeling winded, take a break. This would also be an excellent time to drink some water.
6. Avoid lifting more than you can handle. Shoveling snow is hard work and isn’t much fun. To get the job done quicker, you may be tempted to lift more snow than you can handle. Lifting heavy amounts of snow can cause your blood pressure to rise. It’s best to lift smaller amounts of snow or to simply push it.
7. If you have a snowblower, use it. In the past, I’ve used shoveling as my workout routine. However, as I mature, I realize it’s best for me and my body to use my snowblower. There’s a lot of sidewalk to clear when you live on a corner lot in a city subdivision.
8. Plan accordingly. With today’s technology, meteorologists can identify weather events well in advance. Pay attention to the weather forecast for your area and plan accordingly. Depending on the amount of snow, you may need to shovel numerous times. Rushing to get the job done can lead to injury. It’s best to pace yourself. The job will get done!
9. Use good technique. If you can push snow, that’s your best option. When lifting your shovel, make sure to use your legs. Also, avoid quick or aggressive movements. Trying to toss snow quickly can lead to arm or shoulder injuries.
10. Take your smartphone with you. When you go outside to shovel, take your phone with you. If you’re injured and need to call for help, you can.
When to seek medical attention
Common shoveling injuries include:
- Pulled or strained muscles
- Shoulder pain
- Back strain or injury
- Broken bones
- Heart attack
Even if you’re prepared to shovel snow, you may still get hurt. A minor injury can cause symptoms such as swelling, soreness, or decreased mobility. If you feel your injury is significant, seek immediate medical attention. To view the warning signs of a heart attack, click here. If you’ve fallen and hit your head, here are some concussion warning signs.
For additional information and tips, check out the blogs below.
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