Power Snow Thrower/Blower Safety
This Position Statement was developed as an educational tool based on the opinion of the authors. It is not a product of a systematic review. Readers are encouraged to consider the information presented and reach their own conclusions.
Hospital emergency rooms, doctors' offices and clinics treated nearly 15,000 injuries related to snow throwers and snow blowers in 2009, according to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance Systems of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The estimated medical, legal, insurance and disability costs and other expenses of these injuries for 2009 were over $815 million.
The injuries cross all age group categories, but are most heavily concentrated among 35 to 64 year old adults. The injuries range from lacerations and bone fractures to finger amputations.
Most injuries occur when individuals attempt to clear the auger/collector or discharge chute with their hands. Two-thirds of all injuries involved fingers and their dominant hand. While many of these injuries can be managed in the emergency department, some injuries can be severe, requiring operating room care and potentially resulting in the loss of fingers. The CPSC also has received reports of deaths of individuals due to carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from leaving the snow blower engine running in an enclosed area. In addition, deaths have been reported due to blunt trauma or even strangulation when clothes get caught in the machinery. It is important to understand what type of snow blower is being used. Many operators of two-stage snow blowers do not realize that a second fan blade operates within the ejection chute. Therefore, if the auger is visibly stopped, the ejection fan can still be running and cause injury to an accessible body part. Additionally, children are at particular risk around snow blowers, either from touching exposed engine components that are hot or by getting clothing entrapped in moving parts.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) believes that most of the injuries resulting from power snow blowers are preventable. To ensure safety when using power snow blower equipment, the AAOS recommends the following safety guidelines:
- Never put a hand in the snow blower to remove impacted snow or debris. Stop the engine and wait more than five seconds. Use a solid object to clear wet snow and debris from the chute. Beware of the recoil of the motor and blades after the machine has been turned off.
- Do not leave the snow blower unattended when it is running. Shut off the engine if you must walk away from the machine.
- Do not allow children to operate or touch the snow blower; do not use the snow blower when children are nearby.
- Do not operate the machine in an enclosed area.
- Do not add fuel when the engine is running or when it is hot. Add fuel before starting the engine
- Operators of electric snow throwers should be aware of where the power cord is at all times.
- Individuals should avoid loose fitting clothing while operating machinery. Appropriate glove wear and eye protection are also recommended.
March 1998 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Revised June 2005 and September 2010.
This material may not be modified without the express written permission of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Position Statement 1143
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