Doctor discusses dangers of snowblowers and how to avoid injury

File: A man operating a snow blower. Photo: DoD via MGN

SALT LAKE CITY — While many of us may reach for the snowblower instead of a shovel to save our backs, medical experts say the increased convenience isn’t without risk of injury.

Dr. David Shapiro of the Cleveland Clinic says one mistake is when people turn off a snowblower and assume it’s safe to put their hand inside the machine to remove clogged snow.

“Either there will be some stored energy in the impeller, which is the second blade that throws the snow,” Shapiro said. “Or on some of the very old ones, there will still be compression in the engine — even after the motor is turned off. When you suddenly unblock that clog of snow, it just shoots out like a missile and it’s essentially like a blast injury to the fingers.”

Hands are the most commonly injured area when it comes to snowblowers, ranging from minor cuts to amputations.

While many newer snowblowers include safety features to prevent such injuries, people often find their way around those protections.

Shapiro said almost all snowblower injuries are preventable, and that it’s often experienced users who run into trouble.

“It’s very important to follow the rules — they’re there for a reason and they do make a difference,” he said. “It’s not typically the novice snowblower 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.”

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