Snow Shoveling

Regarded by many as one of the least popular wintertime activities, shoveling snow can also be hazardous and is associated with many serious and even fatal events among both adults and children. Each year, snow shoveling leads to approximately 100 deaths and 11,500 injuries and medical emergencies that require treatment in an emergency department.

Snow Shoveling-Related Injury Facts

  • Most injuries occur from either overexertion while shoveling or slipping and falling on ice.

  • The most common injuries are bumps, bruises, cuts and broken bones.

  • The lower back, head, arms and hands are injured most often.

  • People 55 years of age and older are more likely to be hurt due to a fall or to have heart-related symptoms, including chest pain and cardiac arrest.

    • Among patients who receive emergency treatment for a snow shoveling-related problem, men 55 years of age and older are twice as likely as women of the same age to get snow shoveling-related heart symptoms.

  • Injuries occur when children use a shovel the wrong way or use them during play instead of for shoveling snow.

    • Among patients who receive emergency treatment for a snow shoveling-related problem, children under 18 years of age are 15 times more likely than adults to be hurt from being hit with a snow shovel.

Tips for Preventing Injuries

  • Talk to your doctor before shoveling snow. Not everyone is physically fit enough to shovel.

  • If you have a pre-existing medical condition, or if you do not exercise regularly, ask someone to shovel for you.

  • Consider using salts, deicing sprays, heated sidewalk mats, and snow blowers instead of shoveling.

  • If shoveling is the only option, then use an ergonomically-designed snow shovel.

  • Make sure to do warm-up exercises before you start.

  • Take plenty of rest breaks.

  • If you experience chest pain or shortness of breath, get help immediately.

  • Driveways and sidewalks may be icy and slippery, so wear slip-resistant footwear.

  • Push the snow instead of lifting it up.

  • Avoid large shoveling jobs by shoveling smaller amounts several times throughout the day.

  • Wear warm clothing, including a hat and gloves.

  • Teach children the correct way to shovel and provide appropriate supervision.

  • Remind children that snow shovels are not toys.

Additional Snow Shoveling Safety Resources

  • Snow shovel-related injuries and medical emergencies treated in US EDs, 1990 to 2006