Snow Blower Safety Tips: What to Know Before You Blow
A dozen do’s and don’ts for avoiding injury
Each year, hundreds of people suffer injuries to their hands and fingers while using snow blowers, according to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH). Preventing injuries is important, the ASSH says, because often the injuries are so bad that and fingers or fingertips have to be amputated.
Here are a dozen do’s and don’ts from experts with skin in the game when it comes to snow blower safety.
Don’t wear loose pants, jackets or scarves, which can get tangled in the machine and pull you in with them, according to Consumer Reports.
Do wear ear protection, especially with gas-powered snow blowers, as the noise runs above 85 decibels and can cause hearing damage, Consumer Reports says.
Don’t add gasoline to an engine while it’s running or hot, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Instead, add fuel to the tank before starting the machine. Always keep the gasoline can capped, and store gasoline out of the house and away from combustible materials.
Do remove doormats, sleds, newspapers and other items on the ground before the snow starts. If the snow covers them and you run over them with the machine, they could clog and damage your snow blower.
Don’t use your hands to unclog a snow blower. Most injuries happen when consumers try to clear the collector or discharge chute with their hands, according to the CPSC. Instead, stop the engine and wait for the blades to stop spinning. Then use a long stick to dislodge wet snow and remove debris, the CPSC says. Keep all safety devices and shields in place, advises the ASSH.
To keep your snow blower from clogging in the first place, the ASSH recommends working at a brisk pace: The faster the pace, the less likely the snow will stick to the machine and clog it.
Do watch your step and look for icy patches and uneven surfaces. Wear boots with slip-resistant soles, suggests the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
Related: Prepare Your House for Winter Storms
Don’t let children operate your snow blower. Keep pets and kids under age15 away when you're using it, the AAOS says.
Do know where the power cord is If you use an electric-powered snow thrower. The AAOS says if the cord gets severed by the machine or burned by the engine, you could get shocked or electrocuted.
Don’t leave the snow blower running unattended, according to AAOS Also, don’t leave it running in an enclosed area, which could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, the CPSC says.
Do snow blow a few times during a storm, especially if the snow is wet and heavy, the ASSH suggests. The snow blower will be less likely to clog.
Don’t force the pull cord if it doesn’t move freely. Sharply pulling a cord that doesn’t move could hurt your back or upper body, the AAOS says.
Don’t attempt to repair the machine without reading the owner’s manual first.
Related: SafeBee’s Top Winter Safety Tips