I never gave it much thought before but there’s a whole lot in common between lawnmowers and snow blowers. Especially when it comes to injuries. People just can’t seem to contain themselves when it comes to sticking their fingers into the discharge chute to clear accumulated snow.
In fact, this year hospitals and emergency rooms will treat and estimated 4500 injuries related to snow-blowers. Two-thirds of snow-blower injuries involve fingers. Among consumer products, snow-blowers are a leading cause of finger amputations.
The easiest way to prevent snow-blower injuries is to NOT USE ONE. If you shovel your snow you’ll be getting some exercise, clearing the snow and building muscle all at the same time (see my recent AC article on shoveling snow). But I know I can’t get off that easily so take it to heart: most snow-blower injuries are preventable if you concentrate on the task at hand and use common sense. Some basic tips courtesy of Orthopedic Information Org (www.orthoinfo.aaos.org )…
– Read the instruction manual before using snow-blower! Sure, the salesman told you “it’s as easy as flipping a switch” but he’s not the one operating the snow-blower. Rule of thumb: if you don’t understand the directions, you shouldn’t be operating the equipment.”
– Be sober. If you’re gonna clear snow, don’t drink. The cold air, and lots of snow put lots of pressure on your body and you compound things by being sluggishly drunk. Operating a snow-blower isn’t rocket science, but you do need your wits about you. You can lie on the ground and make snow-angels after the work is done.
– Do not remove any safety devices, shields or guards on switches, and keep hands and feet away from moving parts. Use a stick or broom handle (not your hands or feet) to remove debris in your snow-blower.
– Stay away from the engine cowling, as it can become very hot and burn unprotected flesh.
– Add fuel before starting the engine, not when it is running or hot. .
– Never let children operate snow-blowers. Keep kids 15 years of age and younger away when lawnmowers and snow-blowers are in use.
– Do not leave a snow-blower unattended when it is running. It’s just like driving a car (at least in this respect) if you must walk away from the machine, shut off the engine.
– If your snow-blower becomes jammed, turn it off, disengage clutch and wait more than 5 seconds for blades to stop rotating. Do not kick it. Especially if it’s running.
– Turn the snow-blower off and step back. Beware of the brief recoil of motor and blades that occurs after the machine has been turned off.
Hey come on — it’s only snow! But I’ll concede: with the amount of snow we’re getting in some locations this holiday season, a regular shovel may not be enough. But just like the snow-blower’s distant cousin the lawnmower, someone, somewhere will get distracted and lose a part of their foot or finger. Try not to have it happen to you.