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Shoveling heavy snow could put Chicago workers at risk

Chicago and many other parts of the country are currently buried in snow, which has many workers putting in extra time shoveling this winter. The problem is that shoveling wet, heavy snow can put workers at risk of suffering serious injuries or even death.

Heart attacks are the primary thing workers need to be concerned about while shoveling. The president of the American College of Cardiology said people who have known heart conditions should avoid shoveling, if possible. People who are at risk of heart problems, such as individuals who smoke or who have high blood pressure, are advised to use caution while shoveling, the ACC president said.

He advised that things to watch out for include shortness of breath, unexpected chest tightness, and pain or burning in the jaw, chest or shoulder.

Workers are also at risk of suffering musculoskeletal strains, particularly in the lower back, shoulders and knees, while shoveling. According to an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery, the following precautions should be taken to avoid these injuries:

  • Warm up and stretch indoors before shoveling
  • Push the snow instead of lifting in, and avoid twisting when throwing it
  • Use a proper lifting stance with legs bent and back straight
  • Use a smaller shovel to allow for smaller loads of snow
  • Stay hydrated, and keep taking breaks

Illinois workers who are injured on the job while shoveling snow -- or performing any other job duty -- may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ comp benefits can help cover medical expenses, lost wages and other costs associated with the injury.

However, these claims are sometimes fought fiercely by employers and their insurers, which is why many injured workers seek the help of personal injury lawyers for assistance during the application and appeals processes.

Source: Washington Post, “Should you shovel snow? Know your risk of heart attack and injury before you start,” Lenny Bernstein, Feb. 13, 2014

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