Safe Digging Strategies

Digging, or any form of yard work, is an excellent way to squeeze physical activity into your daily routine. But it’s strenuous work, and can do more harm than good if not done correctly. The next time you break out your shovel, keep these safety tips in mind.

Use the right shovel.

Before you dig into any sort of outdoor project, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the best shovel for the job. According to nationally syndicated newspaper columnist Tim Carter, a round point shovel breaks into dense soil much more efficiently than the oft-used square point shovel, which is better used for loose materials such as sand and pea-sized gravel. Need to crack rocks within the hole you dig? Try a spud bar instead.

Call before you dig.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re building a new fence or planting a new shrub. Regardless of the size and scope of your digging project, you should always dial 811 before breaking out your shovel or you risk serious injury and a neighborhood service disruption. When you place the call, your local utility companies will have a professional locater come out and mark your utility lines so you can safely proceed.

Maintain good posture.

Digging can cause serious back strain if you don’t use the right form. To avoid aching muscles, remember that your arms and legs should be doing all the work, not your back. Use your foot to push the shovel in the ground, but don’t actually jump on the shovel with both feet. (If you’re exerting that much force, you’re probably using the wrong tool for the job.) It’s also a good idea to alternate feet – so if you use your left foot to break into the ground the first time, switch to your right foot the next time around. Bend at the knees anytime you lift, and don’t twist your body – turn your entire body instead. And anytime you feel winded, take a breather!