Liberty Mutual Insurance Company produces an annual “Workplace Safety Index” that identifies causes of the most disabling workplace injuries that result in six or more days of lost time. According to this index ,which is based on data from 2012, overexertion was at the top, accounting for more than 25 percent. Yes, according to reports, overexertion consistently tops the list.
This data refers to workplace injuries. Overexertion also presents a major threat to one’s health and life outside of work, especially in geographical areas that experience extreme accumulation of snow and ice. Case in point, it has been reported that every winter at least 100 people die in the US as a result of overexertion from shoveling snow. According to the Chicago Tribune, there were 13 deaths in the Chicago area (10 in Cook county and 3 in DuPage county) related to shoveling snow from January 31, 2015 to February 2, 2015. It was also reported in early February 2015 that a Toledo, Ohio police officer died from a heart attack while shoveling snow.
Medical experts state that those individuals most vulnerable to heart attacks caused by cold outdoor activity are those with past heart problems, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, smokers and individuals who have a sedentary lifestyle. In the South, we don’t run into shoveling snow that often, but when we do, here are suggestions to prevent serious injury or death from doing such activities:
- Don’t shovel soon after waking in the morning, wait at least 30 minutes
- Avoid eating a heavy meal prior to shoveling
- Don’t drink coffee or smoke for at least one hour before shoveling
- Warm up your muscles prior to shoveling
- Use a small shovel
- Take frequent 15 minute breaks
- Make sure you stay well hydrated
- Cover your mouth with a scarf or neck gaiter to prevent breathing in cold air that can lead to angina or breathing difficulty
- Layer your clothing and cover your neck and head to prevent loss of body heat
- Be on the lookout for warning signs that could lead to a heart attack (dizziness, shortness of breath, etc.)
To read more on this subject, go to http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2010/02/death_by_driveway.html.