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Enjoying Winter Safely in Minnesota

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Tips on Safely Shoveling Snow from Your Driveway and Walk

Did you know that the average annual snowfall for the Twin Cities is 45.3″? That’s a bunch of white stuff that brings pristine winter scenes, sledding opportunities, great amateur sculptures in front yards and a school kid’s hope for a day off.

But it also brings potentially dangerous conditions. Homeowners in Minnesota, like in most states, have a legal duty to keep their property reasonably safe for visitors. Visitors can include people who you have invited over, letter carriers, delivery people or just a friend who drops in. Homeowners have a duty to exercise reasonable care in removing unsafe conditions. That means snow and ice on paved surfaces and that means shoveling snow.

Stay Safe Out There…

Some people see shoveling snow as an exercise opportunity. However there are many others that see it as a chore particularly when they are trying to get it done in the morning before leaving for work. Regardless how you view it, there are some simple tips to prevent lower back injury or the more serious cardiac related injury:

  • Shoveling snow is exercise and like any exercise you need to stretch your muscles and warm your body before having at it. Try stretching back muscles and thigh muscles and do a few minutes of aerobic exercise (walking in place) before grabbing the shovel.
  • Dress in layers so you can keep comfortable as you warm up during the shoveling.
  • Try pushing the snow where possible as opposed to lifting it putting a strain on back and leg muscles.
  • Take frequent breaks. Better to take a little longer to get the job done than being laid up with a bad back for a day or two.
  • Take advantage of “snow shovel technology” and try one of the ergonomically designed plastic shovels rather than the traditional metal and wood. The new ones are lighter and more efficient.
  • If you can, stay in front of the snowfall by sweeping or shoveling it before it has a chance to accumulate significantly. This is particularly helpful if it is a wet snow which can greatly increase the weight of each shovel load.
  • Stay hydrated. Cold dry air can quickly dehydrate you when you are doing vigorous work like shoveling snow.

…Or Hire Someone

Of course there is another option and that’s to hire the kid down the street to shovel the snow. Understand however, that you will likely be responsible for any injury he/she incurs while working on your property. If you opt to hire a contractor to clear your walk and driveway, make certain they have adequate liability insurance, workman’s compensation and of course are licensed.

Snow is part of what makes Minnesota, Minnesota. If you treat it with respect then you will be able to fully enjoy the atmosphere and recreational opportunities that it brings us.

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