Winter safety tips

by Christine Yesko

Master Gardeners

The snow has finally arrived and may stay for a while. For those that like fitness, fifteen minutes of snow shoveling counts as moderate exercise. Those who want a good excuse for hiring someone else to shovel, snow shoveling is responsible for thousands of injuries and as many as 100 deaths each year.

For those doing the shoveling, the National Safety Council recommends the following tips for doing so safely:

•Do not shovel after eating or while smoking. Take it slow and stretch out before you begin.

•Push the snow rather than lifting it. If you do lift it, use a small shovel or partially fill the shovel. Lift with your legs, not your back.

•Do not work to the point of exhaustion. Know the signs of a heart attack and stop immediately and call 911 if you’re experiencing any of them; every minute counts. Make sure you have a doctor’s permission if you have a history of heart problems. A clear driveway is not worth your life.

If you are opting for a snow blower rather than a shovel, there are a few things you should know. If the blower jams, turn it off before working on it. Be aware of the carbon monoxide risk of running a snow blower in an enclosed space. Make sure to add fuel outdoors before starting the blower, and never add fuel when it is running.

Another winter concern is carbon monoxide poisoning. In addition to installing a carbon monoxide detector in your home, here are a few tips from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

•Have your heating system, water heater, and any other gas or coal-burning appliances serviced by a qualified technician every year.

•Do not use portable flameless chemical heaters indoors.

•Never use a generator inside your home, basement or garage or less than 20 feet from any window, door or vent; fatal levels of carbon monoxide can be produced in just minutes.

•Have your chimney checked and cleaned every year, and make sure your fireplace damper is open before lighting a fire and well after the fire is extinguished.

•Make sure your gas appliances are vented properly.

•Never use a gas oven for heating your home.

•Never let a car idle in the garage.

This may not be a typical garden article, but your safety is first and foremost, no matter what the season.