winter safety

Shoveling Safety Tips


When you think of going outside to shovel, it may seem like more of an inconvenience than a potentially dangerous activity, but believe it or not people are injured shoveling every single winter.  Whether it’s something as small as a strained muscle, or something as serious as a heart attack, injuries from shoveling are more common than you think, so keep these tips in mind and stay safe this winter!

  • Do not shovel if you’re not capable.  If you are older, out of shape, overweight, have issues with back pain or a history of heart problems, you shouldn’t be shoveling.  Save yourself the trouble and have a younger, healthier person do the dirty work while you make some hot chocolate indoors.  Another option is to purchase a snow blower, you’ll still have to go outside in the cold to clear the snow, but you won’t be at risk for straining your back or heart.
  • Warm up.  Like any physical activity, you’re supposed to warm up your muscles and stretch before you begin.  Shoveling is no different.  It can be extremely strenuous especially if there is a lot of snow on the ground, so make sure to do some warm up stretches to loosen up your muscles before you begin.
  • Use the right shovel.  You don’t want to use a shovel that is too heavy or with too large of a blade.  If you use a shovel with too large of a blade, your load will be extremely heavy and can put extra strain on your back and heart.  It’s also a good idea to get a shovel with either a wooden or plastic handle, as metal handles can get too cold.
  • Bundle up.  It’s important to wear the proper clothing when you shovel so you’re not at risk for hypothermia or frostbite.  Make sure your head, hands, and feet are all covered.  Your winter boots should be water-proof, warm, high-cut, and provide good traction so you don’t slip and fall.  It’s also a good idea to wear clothing that allows perspiration to escape from the skin surface.  If the temperature is in the negatives, don’t go outside to shovel until it warms up.
  • Pace yourself.  Like any physical activity, you need to pace yourself.  Even though you may want to get shoveling over with and get inside as quickly as possible, being safe is more important.
  • Make shoveling easier on yourself.  Push the snow to the sides of your driveway instead of lifting it, this makes it much easier on your back.  If you must lift the snow to get it out of the way, lift with your legs to avoid straining your back.  When you do throw the snow, do not throw it over your shoulder or to the side, face the direction you are throwing in, don’t twist to the side as this can also strain your muscles.
  • Do not push yourself, if you’re feeling winded or tired, take a break.  It’s better to be safe than sorry and avoid a potential injury.
  • Take time to cool down when you’ve finished shoveling.  It’s important to go inside to rest and warm up as soon as you’ve finished shoveling.  Make yourself some hot chocolate and relax with your favorite book or TV show to get warm and show your heart rate.

There’s definitely more snow to come this year so keep these tips in mind next time you need to shovel and stay safe!

Photo By: oddharmonic


Have to Drive in the Snow? Winter Driving Safety Tips

Snow Covered Car

After last weekend’s storm and the upcoming snow expected to arrive this Sunday, it is extremely important to keep in mind a few winter driving safety tips during this winter weather.  This time of year results in snow, ice, and sleet, all of which create hazardous road conditions for the most experienced of drivers. Drivers are highly recommended to stay indoors in such weather, however if you must venture out wait until plows and sand trucks have gone by.  If you find yourself in a situation where driving in the snow can’t be avoided, keep these simple defensive winter driving tips in mind to improve your safety on the road:

  • Allot extra time to get to your destination.  It is vital to decrease your speed while driving in the snow, and you should also leave about three times more space than usual between yourself and the car in front of you to give yourself plenty of time to stop.  Getting on the road 20 minutes earlier than you usually do should give you enough time to drive slowly and safely and also reach you destination on time.
  • If your car starts skidding, don’t panic!  Slamming on the breaks and turning the wheel to avoid a crash are actually more likely to result in an accident.  If you are sliding on ice and your tires suddenly regain their grip, the car will turn whichever way the tires are pointed, which can be detrimental if you have suddenly jerked the steering wheel in a certain direction. The appropriate reaction to this situation depends on which wheels are actually skidding out, front or back.  If your back tires are skidding out and you have begun to “fishtail”, take your foot off the gas, steer the car in the direction that the back tires are skidding in, and gently apply the break.  You may have to steer from right to left until you regain control of the vehicle.  If your front tires begin to skid, take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, this will slow the car down as the wheels skid sideways, and you will slowly regain traction.
  • ALWAYS drive with your lights on in the snow, even if the sun is still out.  Visibility is much lower when it is snowing which is why it is so important to keep your lights on and make yourself known to other drivers.
  • Check your levels of windshield wiper fluid!  This fluid is helpful in improving visibility as it can be used to melt snow and ice on the windshield.  It definitely won’t replace a scraper, but it can be helpful if you find yourself driving in the midst of a storm or have a light layer of snow or ice on your car.
  • Use extra caution when driving over bridges as they are more likely to freeze first. Unlike roads, which only lose heat from their surface, bridges are more exposed to the wind and therefore lose heat on all sides, top and bottom.  This results in snow and rain freezing more rapidly, which often leads to black ice.
  • Do not use cruise control. In conditions that are more dangerous than usual it is important to have as much control over the car as you possibly can. Utilizing the cruise control ability of a car can delay your reaction time should your car begin to skid.
  • Do not attempt to pass by snow plows. These trucks typically have limited visibility and you’re better off sticking behind them and driving on a freshly plowed road, than passing them and struggling with roads that are full of snow.
  • Should your car get stuck in the snow, do not hit the gas!  This will only spin your wheels and dig you in deeper, instead turn the wheel from left to right in an attempt to loosen snow from around the tires.  Keep a bag of salt, sand, or even kitty litter in your trunk, these can all be sprinkled around tires that are stuck to gain traction.
  • Consider alternate forms of transportation.  On snowy days it may be more convenient and safer to rely on public transportation such as trains or buses.  If they are not in service due to the weather, take it as a hint that you shouldn’t be out driving either.
  • Make sure you have proper car insurance coverage for the risks on winter roads. If you are unsure what types of coverage you need, call a MassDrive agent to learn more.

At MassDrive we want all drivers out there to practice safe winter driving.  These simple tips can go a long way when it comes to ensuring that you will be as safe as possible on the roads this winter.

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