Snow Shoveling Safety

The City of Alexandria urges residents to exercise caution while cleaning up after winter storms. Strenuous physical activity can increase the risk of illness and injury, especially heart attacks.

Page updated on Dec 11, 2020 at 12:52 PM

Know the warning signs of a heart attack.  If you or someone you are with exhibits these signs, call 911 right away.  Do not drive to a hospital yourself.  While some heart attacks are sudden and intense, many start slowly with mild pain or discomfort.  Watch for these signs:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath may occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.

To help avoid illness or injury when clearing snow, follow these guidelines: 

  • Know yourself and your limitations. If you have a medical condition or do not exercise regularly, talk with your doctor before shoveling. If necessary, hire someone to remove the snow.
  • Shovel early and often. Newly fallen snow is lighter than heavily packed or partially melted snow.  It is also important to keep a path to your door in case you need to leave in an emergency.
  • Push the snow instead of lifting it. Keep the shovel close to your body, and space your hands to increase leverage.  If you must lift snow, lift properly. Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight. Lift with your legs; do not bend at the waist. Scoop small amounts of snow into the shovel and walk to where you want to dump it. Do not hold a shovelful of snow with your arms outstretched.
  • Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side. This action requires a twisting motion that stresses your back.
  • Do not let a hat or scarf block your vision. Watch out for ice patches and uneven surfaces. Avoid falls by wearing shoes/boots that have slip-resistant soles.
  • Snow is a powerful light reflector on sunny days. Wear sunglasses to prevent “snow blindness.”
  • Pace yourself. Shoveling snow is an aerobic activity, comparable to weightlifting. Take frequent breaks from the cold and the effort, and replenish fluids to prevent dehydration.