Shoveling snow can be dangerous. If done improperly the act of shoveling brings into play several ergonomic hazards that should be avoided. Learn how to choose the right snow shovel to minimize these hazards.
Not all shovels are created the same. When selecting the right shovel for the task, ergonomic considerations are essential. The most important thing in the selection of a snow shovel is to make sure it is a SNOW shovel! Any other type of shovel will make the job much harder.
5 things to look for in a snow shovel:
1. WeightYour shovel should be lightweight but sturdy, about 1.5 kg (a little over 3 lbs). Reducing the weight of the shovel, which is unproductive weight, increases shoveling efficiency. The amount of muscular effort required in shoveling depends on the total weight of the shovel combined with the weight of the load it carries. Snow can vary in weight depending on the type (powdery or wet), but the weight of the shovel is something you can control.
The handle length should reach your chest to reduce the amount of forward bending. The handle should be long enough so you don't have to stoop. At a minimum, the shovel (blade plus handle) should be elbow height when standing upright.
3. Shaft TypeThe shovel shaft should be constructed to be strong and light. Fiberglass shafts and/or handles are often lighter and stronger than traditional wood shafts. Some shovel shafts are now available with bends in the shaft or a second handle (usually mid-shaft) which are intended to decrease the amount of forward back-bending required. There are no studies that specifically recommend the use of bent-shafted shovels or mid-shaft handles, although some users do indicate they feel these shovels reduce back discomfort. The bent shafted shovels are also designed for pushing snow versus lifting it.
4. Handle TypeThe handle of your shovel should have a "D" shaped handle. This handle type does not force the wrist into awkward positions, keeping the hand/wrist in neutral when balancing the load of the shovel.
5. Blade Size
The size and style of the shovel's blade should match the exact task. For example, a large push-style shovel will move large amounts of snow when pushing but may result in lifting too much weight if used as a smaller blade shovel. A smaller blade shovel (25 to 35 cm or about 10-14 in) should be used for lifting and throwing snow. The smaller blade will decrease the weight that is lifted and decrease the risk of injury. Remember, the larger the blade, the more snow it’ll hold and the heavier it will be to lift. Take this into consideration when buying your shovel.
Lastly, test shovels before you purchase one, paying attention to how your body, specifically your back feels when you use it.
Does it feel light and sturdy? Does it feel balanced?
Remember, if the shovel feels awkward or cheap it will most likely perform that way.
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