Shoveling Snow Toolbox Talk

Brief your crew on the important things to consider when shoveling snow on the construction site and how to avoid any associated injury.

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Shoveling Snow Safety Talk

Working construction has its challenges and winter weather brings additional challenges in the way of snow. In areas where it frequently snows construction sites may be better prepared than sites where it snows less frequently. Surprisingly, snow shoveling injuries resulted in 195,000 hospital patients being seen between 1990 and 2006. Here are some important considerations for shoveling snow in the safest way on your construction site.

Snow Shoveling Injuries

Winter snows are welcomed by some and dreaded by others. If you are working outside or on a construction site, you could be working despite the snow. If one of your jobs becomes shoveling the snow to clear pathways and walkways, here are some of the most common injuries to be aware of:

  • Slips and falls
  • Muscle strains
  • Ligament and tendon strains
  • Broken bones
  • Cuts
  • Heart problems
  • Lower back injuries
  • Shoveling snow is a simple task but not necessarily easy. It can be intense labor and if done incorrectly, cause overexertion and impact injuries, etc… While heart-related problems only account for 7% of the related injuries studied, 100% of deaths from shoveling snow come from heart-related issues.

    As straightforward as snow shoveling is, an accidental broken arm or head injury is not uncommon on the construction site when snow shovels slip and workers get too close. Obviously, snow on the job site increases the odds of slips and falls, but snow also hides the ground and objects underneath. This makes the likelihood of trips and falls more likely as well. Take extra care when walking on the job site that is covered in snow because you are never sure what you may be stepping on or into.

    How Should I Safely Shovel Snow?

    There are some best practices we should highlight for everyone in construction who may deal with snow on the job site.

    Pushing Snow Is Safer Than Shoveling Snow

    This is how we work smarter and not harder. Use snow blowers, plows, and other mechanical tools whenever possible to minimize the physical load you have to lift. Chances are the excess snow does not have to be moved far, so if it can be pushed out of the way you will use less muscle and keep the moving parts to a minimum. The biggest benefit to you and your safety is that when you push snow or use a blower, you don’t have to throw it off the shovel after lifting it.

    Most lower back injuries in the construction field come from physically lifting a load and twisting your upper body at the same time. Any time this incorrect type of lifting and throwing can be avoided safety is increased.

    Heavy Lifting With Your Legs

    You may have heard this before, all heavy lifting should safely be done with your legs in a straight vertical line. When you bend down to shovel or lift, take a shoulder-width stance, bend at your hips and knees, sink your bottom down while keeping your back straight and your head up. This puts you in the proper position to use your legs for the lifting and keep your back out of danger.

    When Moving Heavy Loads, Turn With Your Hips And Feet

    Lifting and twisting a load with your back is double jeopardy. Once you have the load in your hands off the ground, turn with your legs and lower body to face the direction your load needs to go to keep your back from twisting under load.

    Warm-Up And Prepare For A Marathon Not A Sprint

    Take time to ease into the heavy work. Cold weather will require you to take more time to get your muscles warm and ready to work on the job site. Stretch your muscles only after they are warm. You are safer in cold weather to work with more light shovel loads than trying to lift and throw heavier loads to finish in less time. Especially if you are not used to heavy labor.

    Be prepared to take breaks and catch your breath. If you start to feel faint or become short of breath, or you know you have health issues, consider having someone else shovel snow for you. Adults over 55 were over 4x more likely than younger people to have heart-related symptoms while shoveling snow.

    Don’t Push Through The Pain

    Take pain seriously. Shoveling snow on the job site is a labor-intensive task. Among the most common snow shoveling injuries are muscle strains and soft tissue injuries are the most common. This is likely because shoveling snow is a unique physical activity that happens during specific months of the year. Consequently, your body is likely not used to doing this and needs time to adapt. Don’t try to push through any pains you may develop when shoveling snow. Pain should be treated as an indication something is physically damaged and your activity should be stopped before injuries happen.

    Wear The Proper Gear

    Protective clothing on the construction site includes proper winter gear. Clothes should be heavy enough to prevent overexposure to the cold as well as maintain safety standards required by OSHA and construction companies.

    Winter footwear needs to emphasize traction on slippery surfaces. Snow often hides ice underneath. Extra care should be taken when walking and shoveling snow on the job site. Smaller balanced steps can help you maintain your balance should your feet slip out from under you. Having handrails where possible or structures that can work like handrails in slippery conditions is helpful.

    Talk About The Safe Way To Shovel Snow

    There is a wide spectrum of injuries that can happen as a result of shoveling snow in an unsafe manner for construction workers and tradespeople. It is easy to overlook the basic safe practices for:

  • Proper lifting technique
  • Moving heavy loads
  • Working in extreme cold
  • Working in slippery conditions
  • Working on construction sites
  • On the surface, shoveling snow can seem like an easy mindless thing to do. But like everything else in the construction zone, doing it safely takes awareness and knowledge of best practices to cut down on accidental injuries.

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