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How to use a shovel for shovelling

Shop for Shovels

Shovelling precautions - take heed of the advice given in this section. Shovelling for extended periods should come with a warning!  Using the right technique is important for your safety.  But what is the correct technique? Breaking down the act of shovelling into four key elements should help to ease some of its pain.

Prepare for shovelling 

Some simple warm-up exercises to get the blood circulating

Step 1 – Warm up

It is tempting to overlook this stage but it is probably one of the most important stages of shovelling. Shovelling is strenuous work, even for the physically fit, so warm-up is recommended.

Boots with a beefy tread

Step 2 – Dress for the occasion

Wear loose, removable layers of clothing, sturdy boots with the tread (the grooves in the under surface) intact to avoid slipping and a pair of gloves to protect your hands. If shovelling in cold temperatures, dress wisely and warmly.

Spreading grit salt on icy ground

Step 3 – Check the area for shovelling

Ensure the area in which you are shovelling is free from any obstructions or danger. If you are working on the side of a bank or uneven ground ensure you have a sound footing by marking a step for each foot. Spread sand or salt over any slippery or wet areas.

 
Find somewhere safe to dump your shovel loads.

Step 4 – Have a plan of action

Before you start shovelling, work out a convenient place to pile the material you are shifting to avoid having to remove it again later.

This shovel has a bend in the shaft to reduce stooping

Step 5 – Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength

Some shovels are designed with a long, curved handle to keep your back straighter and reduce spinal stress.

Clear snow from your driveway with a snow pusher!

If it’s snow you are shovelling, try to push it rather than lift it

There are shovels designed to push snow to clear it. Avoid putting off this task…clearing a light covering of snow is much easier than having to shift heavy, frozen layers.

 
Many hands make light work - don't be afraid to ask for help!

If possible, ask someone to help you

Many hands make light shovelling!

 

Holding shovel

Get your balance right and put one hand on the handle with the other as far down the shaft as possible

Step 1 – Grip shovel

With your strongest hand, grip the shovel by the handle and place the other hand as far down the shaft as possible. This will balance the weight of the lift, giving you more leverage and better control of the shovel.

Shovelling techniques

Step 2 – Load shovel

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and place one foot close to the shovel. Keeping your knees slightly bent, put your weight on the front foot, leaning your body forward on the shovel and scoop an amount of material comfortable for your strength. Saving time by overloading the blade can lead to a strain…pace yourself.

Man using shovel, shifting weight to his rear foot. Shift your weight to the rear foot and, lift keeping the load close to your body. Always lift with your legs – they are stronger than your back and less prone to injury. Squat with your knees slightly bent and back straight.  Use the muscles in your legs to power the lift, straightening your knees slowly as you lift.

Try not to bend from the waist. Your aim is to limit the amount of stooping as you lift the loaded blade.

 

Discarding material

Man discarding material from shovel

Step 1 – Keep your back straight

Do not twist your back to dispose of the material. Turn your whole body to face the new location and either walk to it to deposit the material or tip the blade sideways and discard.  Avoid throwing or bringing the shovel above waist height.

 
Max Barrow!

Step 2 – Use a wheelbarrow

If you have a great deal of earth or material to deposit then a wheelbarrow will save you making those trips.

Stop shovelling and stretch your back at regular intervals

Step 3 – Take frequent breaks and drink water to keep hydrated

Even during the winter, your body can become dehydrated.  Stretch your back during rest periods. Stand up straight and walk around regularly to extend the lower back or place your hands on your hips and bend backwards slightly. Listen to your body…stop if you feel any pain.

Wonkee Donkee says 'Make sure you warm up your muscles before and after shovelling. In the winter months especially, icy temperatures make the muscles tight and more prone to injury as well as increasing strain on the heart.'