Shovel safely!

Winter brings out the ergonomist in us – Karen was recently watching with interest as her husband shovelled the driveway. In fact, she was so intrigued with the process, that she spontaneously launched a full scale ergonomics assessment! (Is it any coincidence that the analysis process required approximately the same time as it took for one lonely person to completely shovel her laneway?) Check out the effects of these “ergonomically designed” snow shovels, according to Karen’s assessment. Karen used the University of Michigan’s 3D Static Strength Prediction program, the weight of the snow on that day, and the dimensions of the shovels, to estimate the demands on our “volunteer” shoveller. Note that these results are only valid for the specific conditions that she observed.
Out with the Old Shovel. When her “volunteer” used a traditional shovel, she could ALMOST feel the strain. Karen couldn’t bear to watch. She provided Dan with some “ergonomically designed” tools for the job.
The bent-handled “ergo shovel” received good reviews from our volunteer. It allows a relatively upright posture, even when shovelling. The bent handle is designed to keep the hand closest to the scoop in a higher location, minimising bending and twisting. According to Karen’s biomechanical analysis, this task demanded less strain overall. The volunteer approved of the new tool, but Karen “pushed” for improvements.
The Scoop, shown in the photo above, allowed a much better posture! This tool lets the user stand upright, and push directly forward, with no twisting at all. The drawbacks – you can accumulate so much snow that the scoop becomes too heavy to push, and heavy, wet snow does not slide as easily off the shovel. Karen’s conclusion: Less strain for her, as no back rub will be required when her husband comes inside!

Other shovelling tips:
Consider a snow blower—the ultimate shovel!
Choose warm, waterproof boots with good traction.
Drink plenty of water—you can get dehydrated while shovelling, even in winter!
Dress in layers so you can remove clothing as you get warmer.
Plan where you’ll pile the snow. Push the snow far enough away that you won’t have to lift snow onto the pile.
Use a smaller shovel to limit the weight you need to lift.
Warm up by walking before you begin.
Take frequent breaks—walk around during your breaks rather than standing still. For example, walk around to your back yard to shovel a path for your dog. Then shovel for 15 minutes. Then go to get the mail.
Get help—make it a family tradition to shovel together! Or hire a neighbourhood teen to shovel for you.
Shovel early and often. Snow gets harder to move as it melts and settles.
As you shovel, think about the position of your back—try to move your feet and avoid twisting as much as possible.