Snow shoveling: Heavy Lifting!

December 28th, 2004 by

I was all set to do our second blog on experience rating, when a snow storm interrupted my plans. As I was shoveling to clear a path out of my driveway, I envisioned doing a brief blog on the hazards of shoveling: it can be heavy lifting, especially if the snow is wet or has been compacted by the action of large snow plows. Indeed, yesterday’s blog has a very useful link to the AARP website with lots of good information on shoveling.
I tried to be careful, bending my knees and minimizing the twisting. But shoveling involves the hazardous combination of lifting and twisting. In a hurry to get to the office, I worked too fast and I lifted too much. So guess what? I couldn’t finish the job. Something gave way in my lower back and I had to retreat to the house for Ibuprofen and a heat pack.
Later that morning, once I finally dragged myself ever-so-slowly into the office, I joked with a claims adjuster who works nearby that I planned to go into the copy room, lift a box and claim a work-related injury. She laughed and said, “Denied.”
Here are a couple of thoughts for employers who have to keep parking lots and sidewalks clear during the winter:
1. Ideally, hire professionals (with their own liability insurance) to do the work.
2. If snow continues to fall, be vigilant in keeping walkways clear (and make sure any melting snow inside is cleaned up immediately).
3. If you ask an employee to shovel, make sure he or she is in good shape and has a good shovel to work with. Watch them shovel: make sure they are using good lifting technique.
4. If your employees do physically demanding work, observe them carefully at the beginning of the shift, to make sure they have not been injured before they got to work (as I was).
In the next few months, there will be thousands of weather-related claims filed in the northern states for work-related injuries. Many will involve slips and falls on ice, auto accidents and lifting injuries from shoveling. I would advise everyone to slow down and stay alert. It would have worked for me, I’m sure.