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December 8, 2017

A Blanket of Snow is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

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You’re ready right?  That white stuff is on its way. Let’s review how not to visit the emergency room this winter.

Shoveling – There are over 11,500 injuries and medical emergencies each year from shoveling.

  • Remember your back:
    • Curved handles help you keep your back straighter
    • Metal shovels are heavier than the newer composites
    • Smaller shovels help limit the loads you lift
    • Consider the handle length – longer or shorter – what’s more comfortable
    • Push the snow, rather than lift – there are shovels made just for pushing snow
    • Don’t throw the snow over your shoulder, twisting is a sure path to injury
    • Beware slippery concrete after shoveling – slipping on ice is common and can be prevented
    • General tips and info
      • People over age 55 are four times more likely to be hurt or suffer a heart attack
      • Take frequent breaks and dress in layers
      • If the snow is heavy or there’s lots of it – start early and shovel light loads often
      • Don’t overdo it! Snow shoveling is hard work – stop at the first sign of any pain

Snow Blowing – Each year snow blower operators suffer more than 500 amputations and over 5,000 emergency room visits.

  • Safety First
    • Finger amputations are common
      • Keep hands and fingers away from moving parts – simple, but easy to forget
      • Motor recoil – the motor and blades can spring back after being turned off – removing a hand or finger
      • Keep the safety shields and guards on switches in place
      • Use clearing tool for jams – snow or newspaper
  • Remember the engine is hot and will burn unprotected skin
  • Fifteen is the considered the minimum age to safely operate a snow blower
  • Watch the cord on electric snow blowers – if it gets caught you could receive a shock or be electrocuted
  • Refuel outside in open air and never when the engine is running or hot
  • Never leave the snow blower running when you pop into the house for a moment
  • Consider using your leaf blower as an alternative – it can be useful for light snow, steps, walkways or cars
  • In addition to de-icing salts, kitty litter can provide traction and heated sidewalk mats can melt the snow/ice
  • Consider your limits – it may be time to hire help

Stay on top of the winter weather – don’t get snowed under when shoveling or snow blowing.

Kathi Hegranes is the injury prevention and outreach coordinator at the Trauma Center at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah.