snowblower injuryIf you live in New England, owning a snow blower can be a blessing in the winter, but suffering from a snow blower injury is a serious matter and can happen all too often. Massachusetts and other parts of New England have already seen its fair share of storms with heavy snow and it’s only January. If we have learned anything from the past, anything could happen in the coming months. So, if you own a snow blower, be sure that you know how to operate it properly to reduce the risk of injury.

Dr. Philip Blazar is an orthopedic surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and has already seen 10 patients this season that needed to be treated for a snow blower injury. Blazar warns:  “Many New Englanders associate snow shoveling with a risk of physical injury to your back or to your cardiovascular health. But using a snow blower can also be dangerous when it is not used properly and with caution” (source: Boston Magazine).

Dr. Blazar says the most common snow blower injury is to the hands. “Injury to the hand is common because although most know not to put their hand near the moving blades, many are unaware that the blade can still move even after the ignition is shut off,” Blazar says. “When the machine jams it stays still, so it seems safe. But once the blades are freed up they can move a fraction of a turn even without the motor, which is just enough to cause significant injury to the fingers and hand” (source: Boston Magazine).

The following are statistics on snow blower usage:

  • Snow blower operators suffer more than 500 amputations and over 5000 emergency room visits.  The vast majority of these injuries occur while trying to clear snow and ice jams from the collection auger or discharge chute (source: US Consumer Products Safety Commission (USCPSC)).
  • The average injured individual is a 44-year old male.
  • The dominant hand is involved 90% of the time, resulting in amputation of finger tips, most commonly the middle one (source: American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH)).
  • Heavy, wet snow, accumulation greater than six inches, and a temperature of 28 degrees, or higher all contribute to a greater risk of a clogged snow blower, increasing the chance of injury.

In the event that your snow blower does get clogged be sure shut down the machine entirely. Never use your hand to clear the intake augers or discharge chute.  Use the handle provided with most new snow blowers, stick, ice scraper, or other tool to remove ice and packed snow.

The following are a few safety tips to prevent a snow blower injury:

  • Keep pets and small children away from the snow blower at all times.
  • Be aware of sticks and rocks that could end up getting sucked up in the snow blower.
  • Position the chute away in a manner that will avoid injury to you and others as well as damage to property.
  • Keep long hair tied back and make sure your shoelaces are tied to avoid anything getting caught in the snow blower.
  • Be on the lookout for ice to avoid slipping, falling, and losing a grip on the snow blower.

Following these basic tips will help to keep you and your family safe from a snow blower injury while efficiently maintaining your property through the New England winter.