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Snow removal tips to keep you safe as you shovel and sweep


Kids love it. Grownups dread it. Freshly fallen snow is always such a delight to look at and a hassle to clear away.

Shovelling can be time-consuming and frustrating (especially when you finish as the snowfall starts again). It’s also can be a pain in the neck, back and shoulders.

Here are two big snow stats from the Red Cross:

Snow stat #1: To clear a two-car, 325-square-feet driveway (30 square meters), you’ll shovel 14,000 pounds (6,350 kilograms) of snow.

Snow stat #2: If each shovelful weighs about 11 pounds (5 kilograms), you’ll have to do the same movement 1,270 times (!) to shovel it all.

That’s a lot of bending, lifting and potential back aches.

We want to keep you and your body safe and sound this winter, so if you don’t have a snowblower and you’re shovelling by hand, here are six tips to protect your back and joints as you clear the snow.

Safety tip #1) Warm-up, stretch and do cardio

Sure, you’re eager to dig your car out from the avalanche caused by the local snowplow. But you should stretch and warm up first, as you’re more prone to injury when muscles are cold and tight.

Before you start any strenuous activity like shovelling your mansion driveway, give your body time to increase its blood flow. Take a brisk walk first to get your heart pumping, or you can even try another exercise like marching in place, jumping jacks, stair climbs (indoors, not on your icy steps) or any other full-body activity for five to 10 minutes before you shovel.

It's a good idea to stretch before and after your snow-shovelling mission. Try gentle stretches or yoga to improve your flexibility. You want to stretch and warm up muscles to prevent lower back pain during shovelling and to avoid upper back pain after you’ve stashed the shovel away for the night.

Smiling man with snow shovel

Safety tip #2) Get good tools

It's common knowledge among tradespeople that you can get hurt if you use the wrong tools. We recommend you find an ergonomic snow shovel with an adjustable handle. Find a shovel that fits your height and is strong enough to help you stand straighter, which means less stress on your back.

Going to shovel snow off your roof? Don’t climb up there! Stay safe by using a long-reach roof rake, like the SnowPeeler by PolarMade.

You also want to wear good footwear for shovelling. To stabilize yourself for icy driveways and stairs, wear boots with strong tread traction (best to avoid boots with slippery soles). Here’s a useful article on the best winter snow shovelling boots.

Smiling woman with snow shovel

Safety tip #3) Use the proper snow shovelling technique

To prevent the risk of suffering from back pain as much as possible, try to optimize your body mechanics and have good posture whenever you’re lifting. According to physical therapy experts in the Canadian Chiropractic Association, here’s how to safely shovel your paths and driveway:

  • Face the snow you want to remove.
  • Plant your feet firmly on the ground. Slightly contract your abdominal muscles. Then bend from the knees and hips in a squat, instead of leaning forward and straining your spine. A good knee bend gives you better stability and protects your joints and discs.
  • Put one hand at least halfway down your shovel, near the blade, and the other on the handle. This keeps the weight of the snow near your body.
  • Now scoop up the snow, while keeping your load of snow light. Keep your back straight as you lift the shovel with your leg muscles.
  • Never twist your back and fling snow over your shoulder. Instead, keep your nose over your toes and pivot your body all at once to face the direction you want to gently deposit the snow.
  • Even better: don’t even lift the snow, just push it along the ground - just watch out for concrete gaps, you don’t want to stop short and ram your stomach into the shovel handle.

Safety tip #4) Take your time

There’s no need to rush. You don’t have to race around shovelling like your life depends on it. It’s not The Hunger Games or sudden death overtime in the Stanley Cup Finals. Instead, you want to bring a calmness to your shovelling method, like you’re painting a work of art or raking a relaxing Zen garden.

Shovel small amounts of snow instead of giant stacks. Then take a break every few minutes to stretch and unwind your arms, legs, and back. And consider shovelling multiple times, instead of waiting till there’s a huge pile to tackle. It’s good to shovel when the snow first falls. That’s because fresh snowflakes are drier, fluffier, lighter and easier to lift and clear.

Smiling man holding shovel by car in winter

Safety tip #5) Post-shovelling self-care

Are you moaning and groaning from back pain after shovelling? Use a foam roller to massage your aching muscles or try using Kinesio Taping to accelerate your recovery time. Take a bath with Epsom salts or alternate between heat and ice to relieve your sore muscles and reduce inflammation. Most of all, rest, because you’ve just had a legitimately hard workout.

If that snow keeps on falling, ask or hire your kids, a friend, your friend’s kid or neighbour to clear your driveway. Of course, if your back pain still doesn’t go away and you’re having trouble sleeping or getting in and out of vehicles, consult your healthcare provider.

Safety tip #6) Get insured for accidental falls and liability

In most BC cities, owners and tenants are required to remove snow and ice from their sidewalks by 10 am or within 24 hours of snowfall. This isn’t just to make it easier for citizens to walk around—it’s also a liability issue. If someone slips and falls on your property or sidewalk because you haven’t shovelled the snow, you can be held liable for damages or injuries.

So, clear the paths and protect yourself with BCAA Home Insurance. You’ll sleep soundly knowing that you're covered for unexpected accidents and injuries.

There’s many ways to save on BCAA Home Insurance from BC’s Most Trusted Insurance Brand*. You can save 5% when you buy online. Plus, BCAA Members automatically save 10% on BCAA Home Insurance, and you’ll save an extra 1% (up to 10%) for every consecutive year you’ve had your home insurance with us. BCAA Home Insurance paid out on 95% of claims for fire, water, weather and theft.**  Visit bcaa.com/home to get a quote.

Follow these tips and you’ll be best placed to enjoy a nice safe winter. Happy snow days!

Home Insurance is sold through B.C.A.A. Holdings Ltd. dba BCAA Insurance Agency, a licensed insurance agency, and underwritten by BCAA Insurance Corporation.

*BCAA, in association with CAA, was ranked the #1 Most Trusted Insurance Brand in Canada by the 2022 Gustavson Brand Trust Index.

**From 2019 to 2020, BCAA paid out on average 95% of home insurance claims related to fire, water, weather and theft. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Home Insurance is sold through B.C.A.A. Holdings Ltd. dba BCAA Insurance Agency, a licensed insurance agency, and underwritten by BCAA Insurance Corporation.

†BCAA Member savings on insurance products are only available with Basic, Plus, or Premier Membership plans. For full details, please visit bcaa.com/plans.