Guest Opinion - Don’t touch that snow shovel – it could kill you

Dwight Harriman
Yellowstone Newspapers



It’s hard to know what to make of a recent Montana news item.

The Associated Press reports Billings Clinic is providing warning labels on snow shovels being sold in several hardware stores around Billings about heart attack symptoms while using the tools. The idea is that in the cold, blood vessels constrict, and thus shoveling can put you at higher risk for a heart attack.

At first blush, this seems comical. Wouldn’t common sense dictate that if you overdo any activity, especially if you’re not in good shape, there’s always a risk of something going south?

But the clinic does impart some medical information many folks might not know about – that blood vessels constrict in the cold and thus a strenuous activity could be dangerous. So we’ll give them that.

Still, wouldn’t it follow then that any winter-related activity item should carry an alarming warning? Boots, skis, snowshoes, heck, even scarves and mittens could have labels flapping in the breeze or scratching your skin while you do your outdoor activity.

In the snow shovel case, at least it’s a health facility concerned about your wellbeing and not a manufacturer putting the warning label on the shovels.

Because we’ve all seen the extremes to which manufacturers have gone to warn people about their products.

These days, everything is life threatening – not just step-ladders and hot fast-food coffee but common household objects and even video games – for example, Nintendo has a warning about repetitive motion injuries and eye strain.

Most of that eye strain comes from those of us rolling ours at the silliness.

But the manufacturers are mostly just responding to a litigious society that increasingly uses the court system to solve everything. Yes, there have been numerous cases of corporate irresponsibility where warning labels could have prevented injuries and tragedies. But increasingly, the labels reflect a culture where people don’t want to take common-sense responsibility for their own lives, but blame someone else – even taking a neighbor to court over a slight rather than working it out over the backyard fence.

There should be a warning label, all right, but not for your body. Rather, one that says, “Warning: A lawsuit-happy society can be detrimental to your mental and emotional health.”



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