CALS Wellness Committee tip: How to avoid injuries when clearing snow and ice

Though we may have thought we’d escape it this year, with the record warmth this past December, the reality of winter in Wisconsin has finally arrived – SNOW! Now that we’ve had a few winter snow events, it’s a good time for some basic reminders about how to stay safe when clearing snow and ice from our sidewalks and driveways.

For starters, be sure to dress appropriately for the weather and cover up as much skin as you can. Hats, gloves, waterproof boots with good traction, and a coat made of wind-resistant material with warm layers underneath will help you stay comfortable and avoid frostbite. Use a scarf (or facemask) to cover your nose and mouth.

Clear snow and ice from sidewalks and driveways promptly and carefully. For a longer snow event, it is often better to shovel multiple times – even while it is still snowing – rather than wait until the very end to start the process. This is because the accumulating snow and ice can start to become wet and heavy, which will make it more difficult to clear. If you are deconditioned and not used to the extra exertion, you could hurt yourself – straining muscles or even suffering a heart attack.

When you shovel, go slow and steady to prevent injuries. Lift heavy shovels of snow by bending at your knees. If there is ice, try to scrape it up. If you cannot remove it, sprinkle sand to provide some traction and prevent a slip and fall. Try not to use salt, if possible. And if you do need to use salt, remember that a little goes a long way.

When walking on sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots, be mindful of patches of ice. Look for pathways around the ice and snow, if possible. Sometimes the ice is difficult to see, so take slow, small steps and lean your body forward a bit to maintain your balance. The ice and snow will eventually melt away, but until then, we need to be careful and cautious to stay safe this winter.

For more information and other winter safety tips, please see the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website: