The first heavy snowfall of 2012 is finally on its way to most of Wisconsin, so many residents are preparing to fire off their snowblowers this week. Before you pull the handle and start throwing snow, take a minute to consider the dangers of the snowblower and how to keep your family safe around the machine.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that there are more than 5,700 snowblower-related accidents each year that require emergency room visits. Most of these incidents involve hand or finger injuries or amputations caused by a user trying to clear the auger by hand.
Never try to clear the auger or impeller (for a two-stage model) while the machine is running, and always use the on-board clearing tool or a long wooden stick (such as a broom handle) to clear the clog. Never use your hands or feet to dislodge a clog.
Many newer units include a handlebar control that stops the auger and impeller. While this feature goes a long way toward making the clearing process safer for users, it is still possible for a fluke accident to occur if the motor continues to run. Make sure your gas-powered unit is completely off and unplug your electric-powered unit before clearing with the tool or stick.
Other tips for safe snowblower use include:
• Never run your gas-powered machine in a garage or shed. Deadly carbon monoxide gas can build quickly, so start the unit outside.
• Avoid baggy snowsuits, pants, jackets and scarves when operating your snowblower. This clothing can get tangled in the machine’s moving parts.
• Wear ear and eye protection when running the unit.
• Always keep pets and children away from the unit while it is running.
• A snowblower can kick up rocks, salt and other possible projectiles. Point the chute away from yourself and others.
• Never touch the engine when it has been running. Serious burns are possible.
• Do not refill a gas-powered engine while it is running or is still hot. Shut off the machine and let it cool before refueling.
• If your snowblower is an electric-powered unit, use an outdoor extension cord and an outlet with a ground fault interrupter. Keep the cord safely away from the spinning auger.