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Snowblower Safety

George Maher, Former Agricultural Safety Specialist

As the snow gets deeper, the number of snowblower-related injuries increases. Snowblowers are potentially dangerous machines that need to be used carefully and with respect for their moving parts.

There are two basic types of snowblowers. A single-stage blower whirls the gathering/blowing auger at a very high speed. The slower-moving gathering auger of the two-stage blower has more power. When a hand or foot is caught iin any part of the snowblower, serious injury is likely. Keep all shields in place and keep hands and feet away from all moving parts.

The snowblower operator must be responsible for everything that comes out of the machine's chute, including the snow discharge and any object the blower may pick up. Objects other than snow will usually be thrown farther than the snow discharge, so be alert to where the discharge chute is directed. If a snowfall is predicted, inspect the area to be cleared of snow and remove objects that may cause personal injury, property damage or damage to the machine. Check the area again before operating the blower.

The small engine that powers a snowblower is also a source of risk. It is powerful enough to inflict serious injury, it produces toxic fumes that can be fatal, and the fuel presents a fire hazard.

Electric snowblowers have their own hazards. The electric motor is powerful enough to cause injury, and the addition of electricity is another potential hazard. Always know where the cord is when using an electric snowblower. If the electric cord becomes caught in the machine and is severed, sever shock or electrocution can result.

To ensure optimum and safe performance, keep the snowblower in good condition. Check the engine oil level before starting. Check the adjustment and operation of the clutch, blower system, and chute positioning before each operating session. Even the tires need proper inflation for good performance. Be sure that the power cord of an electric snowblower is in good condition. Know how to stop the machine quickly and shut the engine off.

Before allowing a youngster to handle snow removal, carefully consider the young person's age and maturity. Physical ability to handle the machine is important, but so are maturity and the ability to make good judgment decisions. Personal injury and property damage can easily result from errors in judgment.

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