Winter can be a fun time to get outside and enjoy a variety of snow-filled activities in Utah. However, every year, when the snow dumps on the valley and the benches, people bring out their snowblowers to clear their driveways and walkways, and inadvertent handling of the snowblower (typically the chute and the impeller blade) leads to disastrous injuries to fingers — sometimes even amputation! We have some quick safety tips for you before your next trip out to clear the snow:
Don’t stick your hand in the chute if it becomes clogged! This is the most common injury I see as a hand surgeon. Even if the snowblower is turned “off,” the clogged, dense, wet snow can prevent the impeller blades from completing their cycle and builds up torque. Once your fingers reach into clear out the snow, the blade can rapidly spin around and cause severe injury. Most snowblowers come with a shovel or hand tool to clear the chute. If yours doesn’t, find some other long tool, stick, or broom to clear it out. Wait at least 5 seconds from the time you’ve turned off your snowblower before attempting to clear it.
- Go at a brisk, steady pace. Going too slow can accumulate the dense, wet snow in the impeller and chute and cause it to clog
- Cooking spray or other commercial spray-on products can be applied in the chute and impeller to help prevent the snow from sticking and clogging
- Disengage the clutch when turning it off to declog the snow
- Many snowblowers have shields to protect you from the blades and the spraying snow. Do not remove these!
- If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been injured from your snowblower:- If it is life or limb threatening, call 911!- If you’ve amputated a digit / digits, gather the amputated piece and wrap it in moistened gauze (if available) and place that in a plastic bag. Then, take a bag of ice and place the bag containing the amputated pieces inside of that. Do not place the amputated piece DIRECTLY on ice. This can water log the piece and render it unsalvageable / not replantable
- If you have uncontrolled bleeding, apply direct pressure to the bleeding area and call 911
Hopefully, with the above advice, you can stay safe, keep your pathways clear, and enjoy the snow!
Check out my appearance on KSL Studio 5 with Brooke Walker this past week! I discussed these tips as well as other ways to keep yourself safe during this Utah winter. Stay tuned for more safety tips next month (online and on KSL Studio 5)!