The Amputee Coalition of America, Knoxville, Tenn, urges safety when operating snow blowers this winter, citing the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) stats that, in a recent year, almost 600 finger amputations occurred due to improper operation of snow blowers or snow throwers.

Most incidents have happened when users attempted to clear snow from the discharge chute or debris from the augers with their hands.

The commission reports that each year, some 5,740 hospital emergency room-related injuries are associated with snow blowers. The agency has received reports of 19 deaths since 1992. Fatalities include people becoming caught in the machine as well as carbon monoxide poisoning.

Physical therapists who operate practices in colder climes may want to inform their patients of the CPSC’s safety tips for the safe operation of snow blowers:

  • Stop the engine and use a long stick to unclog the wet snow and debris form the machine. Do NOT use your hands to unclog a snow blower.
  • Always keep hands and feet away from all moving parts.
  • Never leave the machine running in an enclosed area.
  • Add fuel to the tank outdoors before starting the machine; don’t add gasoline to a running or hot engine. Always keep the gasoline can capped and store gasoline out of the house and away from ignition sources.
  • If you have an electric-powered snow blower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times.

The Amputee Coalition adds one more safety tip:

  • Never let a child under the age of 18 operate a snow blower. While statistics aren’t available for child-related snow blower injuries, we do know that 600 children each year lose an arm or hand to lawn mowers each year.

A study of the CPSC’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System conducted by researchers at the University of Arkansas’ Department of Public Health showed that, between 2002 and 2008, there were an estimated 32,307 emergency department visits for injuries related to snow blower use in the United States. Most of these injuries affected the user’s hand, with 20% resulting in the amputation of either part or all of the hand. (Source: Hammig B, Jones C. Injuries related to snow blowers in the United States: 2002 to 2008. Academic Emergency Medicine. 17(5):566-9. 2010.)

[Source: Amputee Coalition]