FORT LEE, Va. (Jan.14, 2010) — Many people will need to shovel snow from driveways and sidewalks during these cold winter months. With proper body mechanics, painful back injuries can be avoided. When shoveling snow, be vigilant of the hazards associated with snow or ice removal. Military members and Civilians can use Composite Risk Management to help reduce off-duty accident and injuries.
CRM is a 5-step process.
• Step 1: Identify Hazards
• Step 2: Assess Hazards
• Step 3: Develop Controls and Make Risk Decisions
• Step 4: Implement Controls
• Step 5: Supervise and Evaluate
What are the hazards associated with snow and ice removal? Hazards may include: experience, accidents, weather, location, equipment and ability.
Before starting the task, assess the hazards. Consider the physical condition of the person who will be performing the action – is he or she in good physical condition? Ensure that appropriate clothing and gear are available for the task.
When hazards have been identified and associated risk assessed, develop good controls and make risk decisions. Listed below are some controls that can be included to reduce or mitigate the hazards:
• Know personal limits. Rest often. Overdoing it can cause sore muscles, falls and heart attacks.
• Use a lightweight shovel. If one lifts a five pound shovel 200 times to clear a walk, one has lifted 1,000 pounds of shovel alone – that is a half of a ton.
• Use a long-handled shovel to avoid strenuous, unnecessary body bending.
• Use proper shoveling techniques. Shoveling snow is a repetitive motion, which increases the risk for injury if the shoveler does not use proper lifting techniques. Do not bend over to scoop snow onto the shovel blade. Instead, grasp the shovel handle near the upper end while you load the shovel. This limits the time spent in a stooped position.
• When the shovel is full, lift with leg muscles and not the back. Bend the knees, keeping the back as straight as possible. With one hand near the end of the handle and the other as close as possible to the loaded blade, lift the load by straightening the legs.
• Walk the snow to the place will it will be dumped and drop it off the shovel. Do not throw the snow with a twisting or jerking motion. That may cause pain or injury to the back.
• Shovel at half the rate one is tempted to use. Invigorating cold air makes one want to shovel faster than one should. Most shovelers tend to lift snow waist high. Scoop it only a foot or so off the ground and then throw it out of the way.
• Wax the shovel. Wet snow will not cling to a waxed shovel.
• Avoid large meals, alcohol and tobacco before and after shoveling. These may dull one’s sense of fatigue and contribute to hypothermia.
• Shovel snow when it is fresh. Every hour that snow stands, it packs down and gets heavier. In a prolonged storm, it is best to shovel twice before the snow gets packed.
Implement the controls. Once appropriate controls are selected, use them. Do not make unsafe decisions. A plan is only good if it is followed.
Supervise and Evaluate. Monitor the situation and adjust as necessary to keep things under control. Take a well-deserved break every now and then. Use the CRM process to make the experience fun, memorable and safe.