A hand surgeon recently performed six amputations on men who were injured using snowblowers. That sounds bad enough, but it gets worse: Those operations all occurred during just one afternoon following a snowstorm.
And that wasn’t in a large city like New York or Chicago; it was in Allentown, PA, population just over 100,000.
Dr. Jay Talsania told the Allentown Morning Call that this happens after every snowstorm.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates there are 5,740 hospital emergency room injuries a year caused by snowblowers. Talsania says his own experience tells him the number is much higher.
What causes most of these hand injuries? The blower chute clogs and the user, thinking the blades have stopped turning, reaches in to unclog it.
The CPSC reports 19 deaths since 1992 from using snowblowers. Five deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning because someone left the engine running in an enclosed area.
For safe snowblower use, operators should:
- stop the engine and use a long stick to unclog the machine
- keep hands and feet away from moving parts
- never leave the machine running in an enclosed area, and
- add fuel outdoors before starting the machine.
Dr. Talsania adds one more piece of advice: Don’t drink and plow. The doctor says an unusually high number of the injuries happen to people who are intoxicated.