Oswego County News Release
Oswego County Public Information Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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January 9, 2009

Snow Shoveling and Snow Blowing Safety

The months of January and February traditionally bring Oswego County's heaviest snowfalls.

Dr. Dennis Norfleet, Public Health Director of the Oswego County Health Department, reminds people that cold weather tasks such as shoveling and snow blowing can be accomplished safely and without injuries by following some simple precautions.

“Snow shoveling is extremely hard work,” he warns. “Do not shovel snow unless you are in good physical condition. Cold weather, without any physical exertion, puts additional strain on your heart. People who are overweight, have heart problems or have high blood pressure are at high risk for injuries when snow shoveling.”

Most importantly, he said, older people and people with back problems should never attempt to shovel snow. An older person has a greater risk of slipping on ice or snow and causing injury.

“It's important to stretch and warm up your muscles before you begin shoveling,” said Dr. Norfleet. “Many back injuries occur in the morning, because the tissue around the spine is tight after a night of rest. Ironically, people between the ages of 20 and 50 are more likely than older individuals to injure their backs, because they may not be aware that they are out of shape.”

He suggests the following shoveling tips to prevent back injury and strain:

  • Use a proper snow shovel.
  • Take small loads of snow, bend at the knees and lift with your leg muscles, not your back.
  • Scoop in a forward motion, and step in the direction you throw the snow.
  • Avoid twisting which puts additional strain on your back.
  • Take frequent breaks. Stand up and walk around after every 10 minutes of snow shoveling.

Failing to take proper precautions while using a snow blower is another leading cause of injury during the winter season.

The County Health Department suggests the following steps to help you avoid injury while using a snow blower:

  • Read the owner's manual thoroughly before operating the snow blower.
  • Keep both feet firmly on the ground while starting the snow blower.
  • Remove obstacles from your path, and aim the snow carefully. If rocks or chunks of ice are thrown by the snow blower, they may cause injuries or damage property.
  • Do not unclog the snow blower chute while the engine is running.
  • Do not wear loose-fitting clothing, such as a scarf, that may get caught in the snow blower.
  • Do not drink alcoholic beverages while operating the snow blower.
  • Do not operate the blower over gravel, loose stones or on steep hills to avoid losing control and causing injuries.
  • Know how to shut the machine off quickly.
  • Never leave your snow blower running while unattended.
  • Never use your hand to clean the chute or auger, even if the snow blower has been turned off.

“As with any outdoor activity, you will be more comfortable and safer if you dress properly for the weather,” said Dr. Norfleet. “Wear several layers of light-weight clothing, and cover your head. Fifty percent of body heat is lost through the head.”

For more winter safety tips, visit the NYS Emergency Management Office Web site at http://www.semo.state.ny.us/info/publicsafety/winter_safety_tips.cfm.


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