The first big snow storm of the year means using your snowblower to clear the snow from the driveway and sidewalks but be cautious, there’s more injury due to snow blowers than you would think. According to the National Library of Medicine, there were an estimated 91,451 patients that went to the emergency department for an injury due to snowblowers from 2003-2018. About half of those ED visits resulted in a serious injury resulting in amputation, fracture or laceration. The safety features of snowblowers have not been improved enough over time to lower the number of emergency room visits due to snowblowers.
Most common snowblower related injuries
The most common injury due to snowblowers is to the hand. According to the Mayo Clinic, most of the injuries to hands were so significant that amputation of one or more fingers was required. These types of serious injuries happen when the chute gets jammed with heavy wet snow or debris then people stick their hand into the chute to clear it. The most important thing to remember is that even when the snowblower is turned off, there is still kinetic energy stored in the auger system. When that jam is cleared, your hand can be caught by the auger and pulled in, resulting in serious injury.
The Occupation Safety and Health Administration has reports showing that another reason hands are injured by a snowblower is by leaving the blower on while lifting the front end to clear a jam. The broom attachment can pull your hand into the machine.
How to prevent snowblower injury
To safely clear a jam, it is recommended to turn the snow blower off and wait for all moving parts to stop. Then use a long stick to clear the jam. Remember that there can still be enough kinetic energy in the machine to cause wrist injury when the jam clears.
For more information and training on snow blower safety, check out the Hard Hat Training Series.
Good Luck and Stay Safe!