Many parts of the United States have been pummeled with heavy snow storms, and for those areas, having a snow blower is another important part of machinery that must be operated with care, just as a lawnmower, tractor, or automobile.  The US Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates that around 5,000 injuries from snow blowers happen each year. 

There are snow blowers that can be ridden, as well as those that are operated by walking behind them, the same as lawnmowers.  It is very important to be familiar with every aspect of equipment, and the best way to do that is by doing something we many times avoid – reading the manual!  And, if we don’t understand the manual, we should go back and read it again.  How many people do you know that actually refer to the manual before they jump right in, feet first?  Once you have become accustomed to your snow blower, you should keep it in good condition.  Warm up the engine before you start using it, and once your job is finished, let it run just a little in order to keep the moving parts from freezing. 

Hopefully those who are already using your snow blowers this winter, are following these common-sense safety tips.  However, some folks might learn something new, so here goes: 

  • Repeating: read the manual first.
  • Do not drink before or while operating any kind of machinery.
  • Before you begin, check the area for rocks or other debris that could be thrown and cause damage to the machine, property damage, or personal injury.
  • Keep hands and feet away from moving parts.
  • Never add fuel to an engine that is hot.
  • Don’t wear loose clothing that could get entangled.
  • Be aware that although some snow blowers have small engines, they can cause serious injuries.
  • Never leave a snow blower running in a shed or enclosed area, because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Watch for holes or curbs where you are clearing.
  • Reduce speed on turns and slopes.
  • Always pay attention to traffic.
  • If you walk behind your snow blower, wear anti-skid boots to help keep you from falling, and back up very carefully.
  • When running electric-powered equipment, be vigilant of the location of the cord, and never use frayed cords.
  • Never operate snow blowers when the visibility is poor.
  • Never allow youngsters under age 15 to operate snow blowers, and then only if they are mature enough to make good decisions.
  • When doing maintenance on the snow blower, such as changing the oil or removing blades for sharpening, pull the wire off the spark plug to ensure the engine won’t start.
  • Do not remove any safety devices.
  • Wear NRR ear plugs and cool safety glasses to protect your hearing and vision, and by all means, winter warm gloves and clothing. 

Last, but not least, we mentioned earlier that there are thousands of injuries from improper or careless use of snow blowers each year.  Snow blower accidents are a leading cause of amputations.  If the chute gets jammed, never try to clear it with your hands.  Turn the machine off, disengage clutch, and wait more than five minutes for the blades to stop rotating.  Beware of  a brief recoil of motor and blades that can occur after it is turned off.  Use a stick or handle to remove debris.  Many snow blowers have a clearing tool for clogs that is stored within easy reach, giving a strong incentive for easy and safe cleaning.  Injuries such as cuts, loss of fingers, toes, broken bones, burns and infection have occurred because of lack of respect and safety toward the machine that is being operated. 

There’s much more snow to fall this winter, so be thankful you have a machine to clear it for you.  If you do have to shovel it, please do so with care – don’t slip and fall!