Snowblowers Pose Dangerous Risk for Amputations

Handle with care and stay aware; almost 600 people lose a finger each year

The Amputee Coalition urges safety when operating snowblowers this winter. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), almost 600 finger amputations occur each year due to improper operation of snowblowers. The majority of these tragedies happen when users attempt to clear snow from the discharge chute or debris from the augers with their hands.

Since 2003, 9,000 Americans have lost one finger (or more) to a snowblower-related injury. Approximately 15 percent of people who go to the emergency room as a result of a snowblower injury have a finger amputated. The overwhelming majority of these accident victims are middle-aged males.

“Winter was slow to show up this season, but now it is here in full force,” said Susan Stout, president & CEO of the Amputee Coalition. “As the snowfall increases, the number of snowblower injuries rises. Understanding the equipment and never touching the machine while it is in operation will help prevent injuries and amputations. These machines, like lawn mowers, make our lives easier, but they both involve fast-moving mechanical parts. They can, and do, cause serious injuries.”

The CPSC reports that each year, approximately 5,740 hospital emergency room-related injuries are associated with snowblowers. The agency has received reports of 19 deaths since 1992. Fatalities include people becoming caught in the machine, as well as carbon monoxide poisoning.

The CPSC offers the following safety tips for the safe operation of snowblowers:

  • Stop the engine and use a long stick to unclog the wet snow and debris from the machine. Do not use your hands to unclog a snow blower.
  • Always keep hands and feet away from all moving parts.
  • Never leave the machine running in an enclosed area.
  • Add fuel to the tank outdoors before starting the machine; don’t add gasoline to a running or hot engine. Always keep the gasoline can capped and store gasoline out of the house and away from ignition sources.
  • If you have an electric-powered snow blower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times.

The Amputee Coalition adds two more safety tips:

  • Never let a child under the age of 18 operate a snowblower. Although statistics are unavailable for child-related snowblower injuries, we do know that 600 children each year lose an arm or hand to lawn mowers each year.
  • To stay safe, keep hands and fingers out of the snowblower mechanism whether the machine is running or turned off. Do not disable the safety devices built into most new snowblowers, and take the time to review the key safety features in the owner’s manual.