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Snow Removal Safety

By Andre Ivy, MD, MS

Snowblowers: Clearing the Snow Safely

Snowblowers can move the snow quickly, and when used properly, are safe for use. However, according to the Annals of Plastic Surgery, 5,000 people each year have accidents and serious hand injuries, including cuts, broken bones and even finger amputations. Accidents more commonly occur after heavy, wet snow accumulation, when machines may become clogged. Even those who are well experienced with their snowblower’s function are at risk of injury.

Following these simple tips can help decrease your risk of serious trauma:

  1. NEVER put your hand into the inlet. Even when off, ice may become dislodged from the blades, resulting in blade motion. Instead, use a stick or broom to dislodge any impacted snow.
  2. WAIT 5 seconds from shutoff time before inspecting the machine, to ensure the blades have stopped moving.
  3. KEEP the shield and safety features in place at all times, to prevent potential projectiles from causing injury.
  4. SOBER. Make sure you have a clear head at all times while operating machinery.
  5. MAINTENANCE. Upkeep can ensure your snowblower functions safely and more predictably. Consider replacing an aging unit.

Should injury occur, please follow these steps:

Minor Cuts: Clean the wound. Minor bleeding usually stops after 15 minutes of direct pressure.

Major injury: If bleeding continues, or there is loss of sensation or ability to move a finger, consider visiting an immediate care center. You may require an evaluation by a Hand Surgeon for nerve or tendon injury. Tetanus protection may be required.

Shoveling: Moving your Body Safely While Moving the Snow

Shoveling after a snowfall can be a safe and even enjoyable experience, but shoveling improperly may lead to serious orthopaedic injuries.

Following these simple tips can help decrease your risk of serious injury:

  1. GET ASSISTANCE. Two shovels are often better than one. Consider asking for friends and family to help if able. Shoveling can be fun!
  2. STRETCH and warm up before you work. Stretching can loosen your muscles and decrease the risk of strain.
  3. MOVE YOUR ENTIRE BODY while shoveling. Try to avoid overusing one body part to prevent early fatigue and strain. Ergonomic shovels may be of assistance.
  4. TOSS THE SNOW LOW AND TO THE SIDE. Pitching the snow high and over-the-shoulder can damage your shoulder muscles and Rotator Cuff tendons. If you experience shoulder pain, consider stopping, rest, and re-assessment. Inability to lift your arm should prompt you to seek medical attention.
  5. BEND AT THE KNEES while lifting the shovel. Avoid bending only at your waist. This can strain your low back and lead to injury.
  6. BUNDLE UP your head, nose, fingers and toes while working. Sub-zero temperatures can lead to frostbite in less than 30 minutes.
  7. PACE YOURSELF. Shoveling large amounts of heavy show can be strenuous, putting a large stress on your body, including your heart and lungs. Limit work to 15-20 minutes intervals.

Moving the snow is often hard work, but can be safe and enjoyable. Listen to your body. If there is concern for an injury while shoveling, please seek medical attention.

Topics and Subtopics: Injury & Pain Management

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