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The Safety Brief In our podcasts we give short but valuable overviews
and insights into how contractors and safety managers
can be even more effective in protecting their workers.
In our podcasts we give short but valuable overviews and insights into how contractors and safety managers can be even more effective in protecting their workers.

Snow Shoveling Heart Attacks – Update

Snow shoveling heart attacks have caused 14 deaths this month, February, 2015, in Chicago alone. Hear why, and how to avoid them.

We reported this danger at the start of winter, but it’s worth repeating. Snow shoveling is very hard on the heart.

Clearing sidewalks and driveways can raise the pulse above recommended limits after only a few minutes of shoveling. The rate is so high, it’s beyond the safe range of healthy people, let alone the average person. Add the hazard from constricted blood vessels due to cold weather, and you’re looking at a heart attack.

Also in this podcast, Dan Clark describes “heart attack snow,” and why heart attacks are so frequent. Hear how to avoid them at work, or at your house.


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Dan Clark:, in the aftermath of a Chicago snow storm. Time for an update.

Hi, I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief. This is where we talk about health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites.

Snow_Shoveling_Heart_Attacks-Creative_Safety_Supply-250x250We sounded the alarm in December, but it’s worth revisiting. Heavy snows this month, in February 2015, have people shoveling and dropping like flies.

Heart attacks increase when there’s a heavy snowfall and low air pressure. People go out and shovel snow, which jumps their heart rate. If you shovel snow at work, or at home, listen. I have a pile of snow shoveling tips.

Be especially careful when shoveling heart attack snow—the wet stuff—which is much heavier than the dry, fluffy snow.

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense—the “movie heart attack”— where nobody doubts what’s happening. But most heart attacks start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. Often, people affected aren’t even sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help. So, listen to your body.


• It places a sudden demand on the heart. Many people who shovel snow don’t get a lot of exercise, let’s face it. So, when they try to suddenly move hundreds of pounds of snow, it causes real heart strain.

• Cold air causes blood vessels to constrict.

• Arm work is more taxing on the heart than legwork.

• Breath-holding stresses the heart.

• Continued shoveling can cause tendinitis and herniated discs in the spinal cord.

Snow_Shoveling_Heart_Attacks-Update-Creative_Safety_Supply-250X178WHO IS AT RISK? EVERYBODY.

• Even young, healthy men have heart rates jump to 170 beats per minute, shooting blood pressure way up.

• People with a history of heart disease.

• People with high blood pressure.

• Smokers.

• Couch potatoes.


• If you have heart problems, talk with your doctor. In some cases, a snowblower might be a safer option.

• Warm your muscles by walking before you begin.

• Avoid caffeine and nicotine, because they can increase the heart rate.

• Stay hydrated.

• Wear layers. Remove top layers when you get hot.

• Wear the right shoes.

• Choose a smaller, lighter shovel. Plastic, of course, is lighter than metal.

• Pace yourself.

• Push the snow, don’t lift it.

• Switch hands periodically and alternate the side which are pushing the snow.

• When possible, avoid large shoveling jobs by clearing snow several times during the day.

And here’s a final tip for workers on a jobsite moving snow. If you’re on a roof wear a safety harness. Also, the total weight of the snow workers and equipment on the roof should, at all times, be compared to the load limit for the roof. Beware of roof collapses.

That’s it for this episode on Snow Shoveling Heart Attacks. Come back for more ways to stay safety compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape of safety requirements. I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, a service of Creative Safety Supply. Save 10% off your entire order at with coupon code SAFETYBRIEF.


OSHA offers information on snow hazards and winter hazards.

Sidewalk shoveling image via Pixabay, David Marks. Field shoveling image via Pixabay, PublicDomainPictures

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