Doctors issue alerts about snowblower safety


man using snowblower

In the first New England snowstorm of the year a few weeks back, doctors raised the alarm about a spate of snowblower-related injuries they were seeing in local hospitals. It happens every year … the US Consumer Products Safety Commission says that more than 5,000 people visit emergency rooms each year with snow blower injuries. Most injuries involve the hands, ranging from cuts and lacerations to amputations. Experts say that with precautions, most snowblower injuries are preventable. And surprisingly, victims are not just first-time users – experience with the equipment doesn’t appear to be factor, injuries occur to highly experienced users, too. Dr. Shapiro of the Cleveland Clinic says:

Most times, injuries happen when people let their guard down. So even if a person has been using a snow blower for years, Dr. Shapiro says it’s important to follow the rules every single time to avoid a devastating injury.

“It’s very important to follow the rules — they’re there for a reason and they do make a difference,” he says. “It’s not typically the novice snow blower user who gets injured. It’s the person who’s been using it for five or 10 years, has considerable experience with it and may think that he or she can get away with something that they didn’t think they could get away with when they first got the machine.”

The frequency of injuries often is related to the depth and type of snow. Higher temperatures and wet snow were frequent factors. In an article in Boston.com – Doctors tell you how to avoid the emergency room this winter – Dr. Robert Partridge of Emerson Hospital says:

“When the snow is thick and has a heavy water content, it can jam the snow blower,” Partridge said. “Many people don’t realize that even after you turn the snow blower off, there’s some torque that remains in the impeller. If it’s off and you reach in and unblock it, it still has one last rotation to go.”

He adds:

“Manufacturers will tell you never to put your hand in a snow blower, even when it’s off,” Partridge said. “If there’s a blockage, people should shut the machine off and use a wooden stick to clear it. Some snow blowers even come with a stick for that purpose.”

He also offers the following advice:

“People shouldn’t wear scarves or other loose clothing when operating a snow blower,” he said. “Make sure young children are well out of the way. Make sure the walks and driveway are clear of newspapers and stones or anything else that can get caught in the snow blower. And never let a child operate a snow blower.”

The article also discusses other common snow blower-relate injuries, including shoveling injuries and hypothermia.

Consumer Reports offers a good list of commonsense tips for safer snow blowing

  • Never wear loose pants, jackets, or scarves, which can get tangled in a snow blower’s moving parts and pull you in with them.
  • Wear earplugs or other hearing protection, especially with a gas-powered model, which typically runs above the 85 decibels at which hearing damage can occur.
  • Before the snow gets too deep, remove doormats, sleds, boards, wires, newspapers, and anything else from the area you’ll clear to avoid clogs and damage to the machine.
  • Don’t let children operate a snow blower. And keep people and pets far away from the vicinity of where you’re clearing.
  • Protect yourself from carbon-monoxide poisoning by starting and running a gas-powered snow blower outside, never in a garage, shed, or other enclosed area—-even if the door is open.
  • For an electric model, use an outdoor extension cord rated for your model, connected to an outlet with ground-fault-circuit-interrupting (GFCI) protection. Then be sure to keep the cord safely away from the spinning auger while working.
  • Turn off the engine of a gas snow blower or unplug the cord of an electric model before clearing a clog at the auger or discharge chute. And use a clearing tool or a broom handle to clear the clog—never your hands or feet, even if you’re wearing gloves: A stationary auger and impeller are often under enough belt tension to harm hands and feet, even with the engine or electric motor off.
  • Wait until a gas model’s engine is cool before refueling to avoid igniting the gasoline.

See more tips on snowblower safety and snowblower maintenance:
Fire up that snowblower – don’t wait until the first storm hits

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Fire up that snowblower – don’t wait until the first storm hits


We had our first snowfall of the season yesterday … OK, depending on where you live, it was only a few wimpy flakes. But take it as Mother Nature’s gentle advance warning: Winter is on it’s way – get your snowblower ready.

If you have a snowblower, take it out of storage now and test it out – you don’t want to get caught short in the first storm. Popular Mechanics has some tips for how to start your snowblower – including some tips for blowers that are stubborn about starting.

If you don’t have a snowblower, but you have one on your Santa wish list, this video offers  snowblower buying guide tips from Consumer Reports. It’s interactive so you can skip to different chapters. Learn about which type of snow blower best suits your property. The video breaks down what you need to know about size, power source – gas, battery or electric -, key features, trouble shooting, maintenance and how to ensure a smooth start-up each season.

Operating your snowblower safely

Every year, emergency rooms see about 6,000 injuries related to snow blower accidents, many of them amputations. Experts say that most snowblower injuries occur when snow is heavy, wet and deeper than 6 inches – those are conditions that lead to clogging in snow removal machines. Most injuries are hand injuries to the dominant hand.

Whether you are operating a snowblower for your home or your business, the Outdoor Power & Equipment Institute (OPEI) urges you to operate your snow blowing equipment safely. They offer a great list of tips for preparing your machine before it snows, and the following snow blowing safety tips:

  • KEY SAFETY TIP: Never put your hands inside the auger or chute. Use a clean out tool (or stick) to unclog snow or debris from your snow thrower. Your hands should never go inside the auger or chute.
  • Turn OFF your snow thrower if you need to clear a clog. If you need to remove debris or unclog snow, always turn off your snow thrower. Wait for all moving parts to come to a complete stop before clearing any clogs or debris.
  • Only use your snow thrower in visible conditions. Never operate the snow thrower without good visibility or light.
  • Aim your snow thrower with care. Never throw snow toward people or cars. Do not allow anyone to stand in front of your snow thrower. Keep children or pets away from your snow thrower when it is operating.
  • Use extreme caution on slopes and hills. Use caution when changing directions on slopes. Do not attempt to clear steep slopes.
  • Know where your cord is. If you have an electric powered snow thrower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times. Avoid tripping. Do not run over the power cord.
  • Keep pets and children inside. Kids and pets may love to play in the white stuff, but it’s best to keep them inside your home and under supervision while you are using your snow thrower to clear a path or drive. Do not allow them to play in the snow as it is tossed out of the snow thrower’s chute.

If you like to remove your snow the old-fashioned manual way, be sure to see our prior post on Snow shoveling 101: Best shovels, best techniques.

Snow storm damage? III has the scoop


clearing snow

After you’re done digging out from the snow today, are you safe in putting the shovels and  scrapers away yet? Probably not – New England weather is full of surprises. Yesterday’s storm was billed as late in the season, but many New Englanders recall the infamous 1997 April Fool’s Day Blizzard, which deposited 25.4″ at Boston’s Logan Airport. And in 1977, on May 10, Worcester accumulated almost 13″ of snow, while Providence saw about 7″. And then there is the historic 1816, dubbed the year without summer, that recorded snow in June.

In terms of snow totals overall, the 2014-2015 snow season is the record breaker, with 110.6 inches in Boston; Lowell and Worcester both came in at about 120 inches for the season.

While yesterday’s storm proved less intense in some areas than predicted, there were hours of heavy, damaging wind and the coast was battered. Many communities saw power outages, and some people are coping with storm related property damage today.

Claire Wilkinson of the Insurance Information Institute’s blog has a handy run-down: Winter Storm Damage? Insurers Have You Covered, discussing damages that are typically covered by auto policies and homeowners policies. The good news is that typical homeowners policies cover most home-related storm damage with a few exceptions.

One exception is flooding, which would include melting snow seeping into the cellar. Flooding is not typically covered by Homeowners, you need a specific flood coverage, a separate policy. See our prior post: Does homeowners insurance cover flooding?

While flooding from a burst pipes or ice dams would generally be covered, Wilkinson notes that in the event of burst pipes, “there is generally a requirement that the homeowner has taken reasonable steps to prevent these losses by keeping the house warm and properly maintaining the pipes and drains.”

If you do need to file a homeowners claim for storm damage, here’s some advice: Putting in a homeowners claim? … Talk your agent first!

And also from the Insurance Information Institute, here is a brief overview of the steps for filing a home insurance claim.

Snow day toolkit: Shoveling, sharing the road with plows & more


Snow day! Despite many closures in anticipation of a fast-moving storm today, some people still need to be out and about, and most of us will need to deal with the subsequent cleanup. We’ve ferreted through our archives to find some of the best tips we’ve found on cealing wiht the snow safely. And to get you in the spirit, we’re offering a few interesting snow related clips:

Here’s a mesmerizing extreme snow removal video that may make you feel better about a measly 8-14 inches

Snow shoveling 101: Best shovels, best techniques

Sharing the road with snow plows & more winter driving tips

Take care: Shoveling snow can kill or injure you

Snow shoveling and snow removal safety

And after it’s over:
Snowmageddon: Is your roof at risk of collapse?

Snowmageddon: Is your roof at risk of collapse?


After the unprecedented series of record-breaking snowstorms, we’re hearing some reports of roofs collapsing under the weight of the snow. One of our insurance partners, The Hanover, posted this persuasive graphic on their Twitter feed comparing the cost of a roof replacement vs a roof rake.

roof-rake

That’s pretty convincing, but how do you know if your home or business is at risk? The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety has a great infographic (below) along with an informative post on Four Steps to Identify and Address Roof Risks from Heavy Snow – it offers tips for how to identify and assess your risk and how to address problems safely. It’s well worth a read, particularly since forecasters say there may be more snow in our future this week!

This has got to end someday, right? When it does, keep this resource handy:
Responding to Flooding When Snow and Ice Melt

Snow-Roof-Risks_IBHS1