With a number of recent snowfalls in the region, the Northwestern Health Unit is working to keep the public safe while shovelling. Shovelling risks include damage to your heart, back, wrists, and more.

Britt Komish, Public Health Nurse and Injury Prevention Lead at the health unit, explains.

“An hour of snow shovelling can use as much energy as running 15 kilometres. We recommend that individuals over 40, who are usually inactive, to be especially careful.”

Komish adds that the health unit and health-care professionals typically see an increase in outdoors-related injuries over the winter season, and many of them can be linked back to snow shovelling.

“There’s always a chance of injury. Anytime you’re going outside, monitor the forecast, plan ahead, and dress in layers.”

Other shovelling safety tips include:

- Warm up and stretch your muscles beforehand,
- Dress in layers to stay warm, but take layers off if you are overheating,
- Try to push snow, opposed to lifting the snow, whenever possible,
- Take breaks often,

- Use a smaller-scoop shovel to keep loads of snow light,
- Wear a warm hat, mitts or gloves, and warm socks

- Wear proper and stable foot wear

- If necessary, use walking canes or walking poles with a sturdy grip,

- Keep your hands out of your pockets, so if you fall you can brace yourself.

Komish adds that residents should stop shovelling immediately if they feel any type of tightness in your chest, any shortness of breath, or any pain of any kind. Heart attack signs can include chest pain, as well as shoulder, neck or arm pain, dizziness, fainting, sweating or nausea, or shortness of breath. If you think you're having a heart attack, seek medical help immediately.

For those who have to clear off the snow on their roofs, the health unit says that you should always practice proper ladder safety.

“Let people know that you’re on the roof, and try not to work alone. If you fall or get stuck up there, if you get injured and need help, you need a way of notifying someone that you need help. Also, stay away from the edge.”

When properly using a ladder, it’s recommended to have a second person to stabilize the ladder when climbing, and to always use the correct height ladder for the task at-hand. Instead of a ladder, residents can also use a roof rake with a telescopic handle from the ground.

Roofs need to be cleared of snow when you see:

- More than two feet of snow,
- Ice build-up,
- Cracks in the walls,
- Door friction or inside doors that no longer close,
- Unusual cracking noises,
- Ceiling deformation.

Ice and snow is also recommended to be removed from porches, steps, driveways, sidewalks and emergency exits to prevent falls, and to evacuate quickly in the case of an emergency.

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