Commonsense tips for safer snow blowing

Protect loved ones, yourself, and the machine

Published: December 06, 2013 02:30 PM

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Finger injuries, including amputations, accounted for about half of the more than 3,300 estimated emergency-room visits related to snow blowers reported for 2012. Back and shoulder strain were also common. Here’s how to protect against these and other injuries.

  • 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.

Remember, heavy exertion and cold temperatures can be a dangerous combination. Take frequent breaks to avoid overexertion. Seniors and people with hypertension, heart disease, or diabetes should consult a doctor before using a snow blower. If your driveway is especially long and two or more cars wide, consider having it plowed.

We’ve updated our snow blower Ratings with more than a dozen gas and electric models for a current total of almost 100, including the 30-inch Cub Cadet 31AH57S, $1,500; 26-inch Cub Cadet 31AH55T, $1,100; 30-inch Ariens 921032, $1,300, and 28-inch Ariens AX254 921030, $1,000—all two-stage models we’ve recently covered. Check our buying guide for snow blowers and watch the video below.

—Ed Perratore

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