Digging Out: Snow Shoveling Tips

Fire Hydrant properly cleared from snow.

I know plenty of people who love snow, but no one who gets excited about hopping out of bed and shoveling it (one crazy Swede excluded).

Maybe we’d all enjoy snow shoveling more if we didn’t have the ominous threat of a civil infraction or lawsuit hanging over our head. The City of Bend, like many municipalities, has an ordinance that requires all residents and businesses to clear all snow from sidewalks that border their properties. In Bend, snow must be cleared within six hours after sunrise in commercial areas, and within 24 hours in all other areas. At stake is a Class C civil infraction, which comes with a $100 fine, plus court costs of $65. Even if you don’t live in the city, you still have the worry of a civil lawsuit. If a visitor or pedestrian slips and falls on your property or the sidewalks lining your property, you as the homeowner could be sued in civil court for hospital bills, pain and suffering, and other injury-related expenses.

But what about injury to you as the obligated snow remover? Snow removal can be strenuous, particularly if you’re “older”, because cold weather can be taxing on the body, and working in it can create the potential for exhaustion, dehydration, a back injury, a nasty fall, or even a heart attack. The following tips can help you go about the clearing of hazardous snow and ice while reducing your own risk of injury:

Stock up. Stock up on ice melt in advance, to avoid finding it sold out when you need it most. Chose sodium-free, non-toxic products like Safe Step, which we carry at High Desert Ranch & Home; rock salt and ice melt products that contain sodium or harsh chemicals can be harmful to pets and damage brick, stone, asphalt and concrete walkways. Store unused ice melt in an airtight container, out of reach from children and pets.

Take some time to prepare. Pre-treating your walkways and other paved surfaces with an anti-icing product can help make snow and ice removal easier. Before heading out to shovel, warm your muscles before with some light movements and stretching.

Dress appropriately and wear layers. Wear a hat, winter boots, mittens or gloves, and dress in layers. Dressing in layers gives you the option of removing an outerwear layer or two as the physical exertion warms you up, helping you to maintain a comfortable body temperature. Be aware that cold exposure can cause frostbite (freezing in the deep layers of skin and tissue) and hypothermia (drop of body temperature to less than 95 ̊F). Shop High Desert Ranch & Home for a great selection of rugged winter outerwear and layering apparel for the whole family.

Choose the best shovel for the job. Ergonomically-designed shovels help reduce the amount of bending you have to do when shoveling. Use a smaller shovel, or at least scoop or push smaller amounts of snow, if snow is wet and heavy. Consider using a lighter-weight plastic shovel instead of a metal one to help decrease the weight being lifted or pushed. We’ve tried a lot of snow shovels; we stock the ones we like best so we know you’ll like them, too.

Use proper form. When possible, push the snow with the shovel instead of lifting. This will reduce the strain on your body. Use proper form if lifting is necessary; keep your back straight, bend your knees and lift from your legs.

Consider alternative methods. Consider hiring a snow removal service or using a snow blower as an alternative to (or to drastically reduce) shoveling. Ask us about special ordering a snow blower for you. High Desert Ranch & Home has access to ordering several brands of snow blowers, and we service and repair all brands. When using a snow blower, remember to operate it at a modest speed to avoid overloading the machine’s capacity.

Keep up with the snowfall and pace yourself. Try to shovel snow shortly after it falls, when it is at its lightest and fluffiest. If possible, shovel periodically throughout a storm to avoid having to move large amounts of snow at once. When shoveling, take a break after 20 to 30 minutes of shoveling, especially when the snow is wet and heavy. Also, drink plenty of water (avoid caffeine and alcohol) to stay hydrated while shoveling.

And while you’re at it…Please clear the nearest storm drain of snow and debris to decrease the likelihood of flooding when all the snow melts. Also, clear fire hydrants to a three-foot radius. Yes, there’s a Bend City Ordinance for that, but most importantly, fire hydrants that are blocked, concealed or difficult to access due to snow or ice can seriously impede response to your potential emergency.

Warm gloves, an ergonomic shovel, and a snow blower all help when tackling snow removal