Of Interest

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9 Tips to Avoid Snow Blower Injuries

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It’s that time of year again and if history is any indication the Twin Cities can expect at least 45″ of snow to fall. In fact Minneapolis – St. Paul has on average 100 days per year when there is at least 1″ of snow cover on the ground. It’s also the time of year when you can expect to wake up to the growl of your neighbor’s snow blower.

Snow blowers have become the wintertime equivalent of the power lawnmower. Everybody seems to have one. And just like the lawnmower, every year local hospitals will treat snow blower related injuries that were preventable if the users simply took the time to operate them safely. Half of all snow blower injuries involve fingers, hands and feet with the other half typically involving back and shoulder strains.

Let’s make this year a year of safe snow blower operation particularly if this is the year one of your teenage kids will be taking on the chore for the first time. To help you out here’s a quick refresher course:

  1. If you have a gas powered blower always start it up outside. Starting it in the garage or shed even with the door open can create a carbon monoxide threat.
  2. If you have an electric snow blower make certain you have an outdoor extension cord rated for your model and that it is connected to an outlet with ground-fault-circuit-interrupting (GFCI) protection.
  3. Dress for the job. Don’t wear loose scarves, pants or jackets that can get caught in the moving parts. A coverall or snowmobile suit is perfect.
  4. Most gas powered blowers create more than 85 decibels of noise. Wear ear protection.
  5. Prevent jams and clogs by removing doormats, newspapers and any other objects that are in your snow clearing path.
  6. DO NOT try to clear a clog in the discharge chute while the blower is running. Turn off the engine (unplug if electric) and use a cleaning tool or broom stick to clear the chute and /or auger. Even with the engine off both the auger and impeller are frequently under enough belt tension that they can do serious harm if you try to clear a blockage with your hands or feet. Using body parts to clear blockages is why people end up in the ER.
  7. If your engine runs out of gas, wait for the engine to completely cool before attempting to refuel.
  8. Physical exertion and cold weather can add up to muscle and back strains. Take regular breaks and let your muscles warm up again. If you have hypertension you really should not be operating a snow blower without the approval of a doctor.
  9. If the weather does a “Buffalo” on us and dumps a ton of snow all at once, worry about clearing your roof first before expending energy clearing a drive or walk. In fact your best bet might be to get your drive plowed.

The takeaway from these tips is to know your machine and take the time to operate it safely. It’s when owners attempt shortcuts to save a minute or two that they end up whacking off a finger or breaking a bone in their foot. The snow blower is like manna from heaven compared to manually shoveling. Keep it safe and it will make your life more easy.

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