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According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 137,000 snow removal injuries were treated in 2018. To help prevent injuries relating to this winter activity, fellowship-trained hand and upper extremity surgeon Douglas C. Wisch, M.D., and fellowship-trained spine surgeon Lane D. Spero, M.D., of Litchfield Hills Orthopedic Associates have created safety guidelines to follow when removing snow. Patients in need of specialized hand and upper extremity or spine care are encouraged to call (860) 482-8539 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Wisch or Dr. Spero at either the practice’s office in Torrington, located at 245 Alvord Park Road, or in Bristol, located at 281 N. Main St.  

“Each year, we see many orthopedic injuries due to snow removal, from wrist sprains and pulled muscles to stress fractures and lower back injuries,” says Dr. Wisch. “To help keep our community safe this winter, Dr. Spero and I created a list of helpful rules and safety tips to follow to prevent these injuries.” 

When removing snow using a snowblower, follow these safety tips to avoid sustaining an injury:

  • Wear the proper attire: Dress in light, water-repellent layers. Footwear should have soles that will grip slippery surfaces to prevent falling. 
  • Follow the instruction manual: When using a snowblower, make sure that you are familiar with its features as well as its safety hazards.
  • Avoid the engine: Do not touch the engine while it is running or after it has been running. 
  • Never put your hands in the snowblower chute, even if it is off: If the snowblower gets jammed, shut the engine off and wait over 5 seconds before using a solid object to clear the snow or debris. 
  • Safely refuel your machine: Add fuel to your snowblower outside before you start. Never add fuel when the engine is running or in an enclosed area. 
  • Watch for ice: As you remove snow, watch for ice under the snow that can cause you to slip and fall. 

If you have an area that a snowblower cannot access or prefer to use a shovel, use the following guidelines:

  • Use a good shovel: Invest in a light, plastic shovel that is the right length for you. Shovels with a built-in curve are less strenuous than the straight, broomstick style. 
  • Use the correct form: When lifting snow with a shovel, lift with your legs. Do not bend at the waist or throw snow over your shoulder or to the side. Also, keep your hands apart for greater leverage while lifting and throwing snow.
  • Lubricate your shovel: Spray the bucket with light cooking oil, such as Pam cooking spray, to help snow slide off easier. 
  • Shovel right away: Shovel as soon as possible after the snow has fallen. Newly fallen snow is lighter than heavily packed or partially melted snow. 

"If you do sustain an injury while removing snow and you feel any numbness, intense pain or have any loss of movement, seek medical attention," says Dr. Spero.

To learn more about snow removal injuries or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Wisch or Dr. Spero, please call (860) 482-8539 or request an appointment online.