Safety tips for using snow-blowers

Posted at 11:34 PM, Jan 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-22 14:13:59-05

It appears that there will be more than enough snow for you to break out the snow-blower this weekend.

That means emergency rooms around the area can be expecting some extra patients with a very specific injury – mangled fingers, from reaching into snow-blowers.

“Every single person feels silly when it happens to them,” said Dr. Ryan Zimmerman, of Union Memorial Hospital.  "And every single person goes ‘I can't believe I did it, but…’”

Back in 2009 as ABC2 reported on a snowstorm, a man tried to clean out the blades of a snow-blower – on camera -- that he thought had been turned off.  He wound up in an ambulance, with severe wounds to his hand.

“Even when the motor is off the blade still spins for at least five seconds,” Dr. Zimmerman said.  “And even if it's clogged as soon as you unclog it the energy is stored in the blades for another few revolutions, and that's usually when the injuries occur.”

See also: Safety tips for generator users

He says he sees hand injuries during every serious snowstorm; and that’s not counting people whose injuries can be treated in the emergency room.

“Every single snow I would say there is at least 10 that I personally deal with that just have a severe enough injury that they can't be dealt with at their local emergency department,” he said.

With the first big-snowstorm of the winter set to hit this weekend, Dr. Zimmerman is hoping for a quiet weekend, but not expecting one.

“It's pretty predictable that every year, every significant snow we have a number,” he said, adding that the worst snow-blower injury he's ever seen is one in when the patient had damage all the way down to his hand on every finger, including the thumb.

Use a piece of wood or a broom handle to clean out a stuck snow-blower, even if you think it's turned off.

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