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Winter parking lot safety for businesses

Winter parking lot safety for businesses

Ah, winter. The warm cozy fires, the sparkling holiday lights, the first fresh flakes of snow… followed by a foot of the nasty stuff that doesn’t seem to let up until June. As employers, we need to ensure the safety of our staff and customers in the midst of snow-piled parking lots and ice-glazed sidewalks. Here are some handy tips for avoiding winter wonderland injuries.

Be heart (and muscle) smart: Not every business’s budget covers professional snow removal. If shoveling and plowing duties fall to a staff member, make sure he or she is in good enough shape to handle the physical activity. Poor ergonomics or overexertion can lead to muscle strain and even heart attacks. Instruct shovelers to push the snow in front of them and lift with the legs, not the back. (Watch our YouTube video on safe shoveling for more details.) Salt and light: Keep steps and walkways well-lit and clear of ice and snow. Sprinkle rock salt or sand to melt what the shovel missed. Maintain an ample supply of de-icing compounds on site.Stick with it: Never leave a snow blower or snow plow unattended. Make sure all people are out of the path of the blowing snow, and if the blower becomes stuck with packed ice or snow, NEVER try to clear it by putting your hand in the machine while it’s running.

Lend a glove: Keep a few shovels, ice scrapers, gloves and boots on hand for employees who are caught unaware. One Wisconsin employer recalls how a daytime snowstorm left workers’ cars steeped in six inches of fresh snowfall. A new employee from South Carolina, who was unaccustomed to the weather, resorted to using his briefcase to shovel out his tires. Encourage staff to keep their cars equipped with snow and ice-removal tools for the drive home from work, but for those who don’t, a little planning on your part will ensure safety… and spare a perfectly good briefcase from permanent water damage.

Let it snow! (proper shoveling techniques)

How to safely shovelOnce again it is that time of year when we all must prepare for the one winter sport in which everyone in Wisconsin participates: snow shoveling! Like any other sport, pre-participation training is vital for success. We must get our bodies in shape for this physically challenging activity.


Get fit

Snow shoveling is demanding for our hearts, as evidenced by the prevalence of cardiovascular emergencies that occur while people are clearing their driveways and sidewalks. That is why it is important to continue our aerobic exercise routines throughout the year. If you have not kept up your aerobic workouts, or if you have never done one, you should check with your doctor about potential medical concerns prior to beginning. After you have been cleared, start slowly and gradually progress to more demanding exercise. Use a variety of cardiovascular exercises to prevent boredom that may keep you from continuing year round.

Clearing snow, especially heavy wet snow, requires adequate strength to minimize your risk of injury. Strengthening should be balanced, meaning involving both upper body and lower body exercises. While performing these exercises, it is crucial that you use good core stabilization. Focusing on tightening your abdominal muscles and utilizing good body mechanics while exercising will help you incorporate these techniques while you are shoveling.

Suit up

Once the snow begins to fly, it’s game time! Athletes wear protective equipment for their safety, and so should you. A base layer of clothing that will wick away perspiration, along with an outer layer that will protect you from wind and moisture will keep you warm and comfortable. Boots with good ankle support, and with a sole that provides traction, will decrease your risk of injury as you play in the snow.


In addition to physically preparing to compete, athletes also use their brains to develop a game plan to achieve their goals. You should think about the best way to tackle old man winter. Consider options that will make your job easier, like using a snow blower or the strong young kid next door. If you don’t have these options, at least use the correct tools. Some shovels are meant to push snow while others are meant to scoop snow. Regardless of the method you choose to employ, remember to use good body mechanics. Bend at the knees, and keep your back straight and your abdominals tight when you are lifting. Never twist when you are throwing snow.

If you properly prepare for everyone’s number one winter sport, you will be able to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and a nap by the fire when you are finished. This beats post-participation treatment every time, and will allow you to enjoy the beauty of winter in Wisconsin!

By Mark Schmitz, physical therapist, Affinity OccupationalHealth

For more information visit http://www.affinityhealth.org/page/services-specialty-occupational

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