Old man winter's been making his presence felt across the country and, more importantly, on people's driveways in the form of snow and ice. Sure, it looks pretty, but clearing it out isn't as simple as just whipping out the shovel or blower. Snow removal can easily lead to injury (or worse) if you take a haphazard approach. Preparedness is key, and safety is paramount. Since the next big snowstorm could be around the corner, we've got a few tips to help ensure your clean driveway doesn't come at the cost of unexpected and unwanted medical bills.
Pick the right shovel
Rule of thumb: that cheap, junky shovel in your garage is probably going to leave you sputtering and muttering after it fails on you with yards of snow still left to clear. Think of your snow shovel as an investment; buy a good one (or two) and reap the benefits over the entire winter. Whether you want a more traditional snow shovel that limits back strain, or prefer to look into oddities like the Wovel, do your research and buy the best one you can find. A clean driveway and a still-intact shovel at the end of the job will be your vindication. Check out our blog post on buying a better snow shovel for a comprehensive breakdown of what to look for.
Work smart and safe
The urge to hurry up and finish is strong. We get it. But don't let "hurry up and finish" turn into "hurry up and call an ambulance." As evidenced during the blizzard that hit the Northeast over Christmas, hospitals see plenty of action once people get to work clearing snow -- regardless of whether they're shoveling or using a snowblower. To put it into greater perspective, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says that in 2007, for example, over 118,000 people received medical treatment as a direct result of their snow removal efforts.
So, you have two goals: a clean driveway or sidewalk, and no trips to the hospital. No matter where you look, experts offer up largely the same advice:
Consider a snow blower
If you have to deal with several snowfalls every winter, you might want to invest in a snow blower. If you deal with light snows, or don't have a lot of space to clear, you might even be able to get away with an inexpensive solution like the Toro Power Shovel. For more significant amounts of snow, a single-stage or two-stage blower may make your life a lot easier. We have reviews and analysis of several worthwhile models in our full report on snow blowers.
What about snow and ice melters?
You might also want to throw down sand, salt, or other snow/ice melters down to help hasten the cleanup after you've done some shoveling. Just remember that not all ice-melters are safe for all surfaces (if you have stamped concrete, for example, you'll want to be sure that you use something that won't damage it). Likewise, if you have pets, you'll need to use a product that isn't harmful to them, either. No one -- neither you, nor Fido, nor Fluffy -- likes unwanted trips to the vet.
If the last snowstorm in your area caught you unprepared in any way, make sure you're ready for the next one. Go get a good shovel or two, gas up your blower if you have one, make sure you have the proper clothing, and remember to work safely.
Additional snow removal tips
We found excellent tips for safe snow removal at these resources. Give them a perusal before the next storm hits your town: