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Article 1 (Feb 2020): Prevent Snowblower Injuries

February 27, 2020
In the northeast US we’ve had little snow thus far this winter, but it only takes one big snow storm and Emergency Room doctors know they will see an uptick in hand and finger injuries.
              
Snowblowers, those useful devices that can clear a driveway quickly, can also cause hand injuries and finger amputations when used improperly.
              
According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, there were 27,826 hand injuries treated in emergency rooms associated with snow blowers from 2009 to 2017.  More than 20 percent of the injuries were finger amputations.
              
Happily, according to a 2019 study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, injuries have declined, in part because of better machine safety designs and consumer awareness.
              
The key idea to preventing injuries seems obvious to everyone, even the injured: Don't stick your hand in the blades to clear a clog.  Yet, people still do exactly that and injuries still happen.
In nearly all cases of serious injury, the snow blower operators thought the blades were stopped and they reached into the snow chute to clear the clog.
              
The truth is even if the machine is off and the clutch released, some blowers may have torque remaining that will cause blades to turn if the clog is released.  In other machines, blades may continue to spin even after disengagement.  Awareness is the key to safety.
              
The snow chute is never safe to clear with hands, even if it seems the blades are stopped and even if the blower is powered off.  Always use a tool, such as a broom handle, to clear the chute.
                              
A good rule to remember is that snow blowers, while much better for clearing snow than shoveling, can also cause you to overheat and over-work your heart.  It is best to make several light passes while it's snowing instead of waiting for the snow to end.
              
Always wear safety glasses and never wear loose scarves or clothing that could be caught up in blades.
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