Snowblower Safety: Tips to Keep You Safe When Dealing with Snow

Snow season is upon us and it’s time to dust off the snow blowers once again. Each year, thousands of people suffer serious injuries to their hands, fingers, and backs due to the improper handling of snowblowers. Injuries typically occur when the snow is heavy, wet or has accumulated several inches. Below are some basic safety tips to keep you and others from being injured.

Snowblower Safety Tips

  • Avoid wearing loose clothing. Loose pants, jackets and scarves can easily become tangled in the moving parts of a snow blower.
  • Wear sturdy footwear with good traction. Appropriate footwear will help to prevent slip and fall injuries. Consider using shoe or boot grippers, such as ICEtrekkers. These are also referred to as ice cleats or spikes; no matter what you call them, they will reduce the risk of a slip and fall.
  • Stay focused. Pay close attention to the task at hand and refrain from the use of medication, drugs or alcohol.
  • Start the machine outside. Do not start your snowblower in a garage or shed. Gas-powered snowblowers produce dangerous carbon monoxide
  • Protect your ears. Wear ear plugs or other hearing protection. Most gas-powered snowblowers are loud and can cause hearing damage.
  • Think about where the snow is blowing. Never direct the discharge chute toward people, traffic, or areas where damage can occur.
  • Keep children indoors. Children enjoy playing in the snow, but hold off until after you are done snow blowing.
  • Pace yourself. Although snowblowers are safer and faster than shoveling, you should still take rest breaks.

Clogged Snowblowers

When dealing with snowblowers, hand or finger injuries are most common, including amputation. This typically occurs when the user tries to clear a clogged auger or discharge chute with their hands. Follow these tips to stay safe from the dangers of a clogged snow blower.

To keep the snow blower from clogging:

  • Work at a brisk pace. When the blade move faster, the snow is less likely to stick.
  • Consider snow blowing several times during a wet or heavy snowfall.
  • Spray the blades and chute with cooking oil spray.

If the snowblower becomes clogged:

  • Turn off the engine OFF!
  • Make sure blades have stopped rotating before trying to clear the clog.
  • Use a clearing tool or stick to clear the clog.
  • Never use your hands or feet. A clogged auger will have residual energy that can trap your hands even when it is turned off!
  • Keep all shields in place.
  • Again, keep your hands and feet away from all moving parts.

For more tips on dealing with winter hazards, check out these other Society blogs:

Click here for handouts and useful websites from Society’s Risk Management team to help facilitate safety and health efforts at your business.

-Blair Arndt

Author

Blair has a bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in Occupational Safety. He completed graduate work at The College of Insurance in New York City, which has since merged with St. Johns University's School of Risk Management. Blair's work experience includes three years in Occupational Health & Safety and the past 18 years in Risk Control.

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