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Safety first when using snow blowers

December 22, 2010
Daily Press

Delta County and the U.P. are no strangers to heavy snowfall. Snow blowers make the task of clearing all that snow much easier.

many people, however, are injured every year while using their snowblowers.

The Amputee Coalition of America urges safety when operating snow blowers this winter. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in a recent year, almost 600 finger amputations occurred due to improper operation of snow blowers or snow throwers. The majority of these tragedies happen when users attempt to clear snow from the discharge chute or debris from the augers with their hands.

As the snowfall increases, the number of snow blower injuries rise. Fully understanding the equipment and never touching the machine while it is in operation will help prevent injuries and amputations, according to Kendra Calhoun, president and CEO of the Amputee Coalition of America. These machines, like lawn mowers, make our lives easier, but they both involve fast-moving mechanical parts, and they can cause serious injuries

The CPSC reports that each year, approximately 5,740 hospital emergency room-related injuries are associated with snow blowers. The agency has received reports of 19 deaths since 1992. Fatalities include people becoming caught in the machine as well as carbon monoxide poisoning.

The CPSC offers the following safety tips for the safe operation of snow blowers:

- Stop the engine and use a long stick to unclog the wet snow and debris form the machine. Do not use your hands to unclog a snow blower.

- Always keep hands and feet away from all moving parts.

- Never leave the machine running in an enclosed area.

- Add fuel to the tank outdoors before starting the machine; don't add gasoline to a running or hot engine. Always keep the gasoline can capped and store gasoline out of the house and away from ignition sources.

- If you have an electric-powered snow blower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times.

- Never let a child under the age of 18 operate a snow blower. While statistics aren't available for child-related snow blower injuries, we do know that 600 children each year lose an arm or hand to lawn mowers each year.

A study of the CPSC's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System conducted by researchers at the University of Arkansas' Department of Public Health showed that, between 2002 and 2008, there were an estimated 32,307 emergency department visits for injuries related to snow blower use in the United States. Most of these injuries affected the user's hand, with 20 percent resulting in the amputation of either part or all of the hand.

Using common sense and adopting a safety first attitude will help prevent a prevent a potentially serious injury.



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