Snow blowers are fantastic for clearing large amounts of snow in a hurry, but they can be particularly dangerous when not operated correctly.
Possible injuries that can be caused by a snow blower include bumps and bruises, cuts, pinches, electrical injuries including electrocution and fires, burns, fractures and breaks, severing of digits and limbs, back and shoulder strain, and even crush injuries.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) estimates that there were only about 4 reported incidents of injuries to children under the age of 18 caused by snow blowers and snow throwers that were treated in hospital in the United States in 2014, while the overall injury rate was more than 9,000. Of those injuries about half are injuries (including amputation) to the fingers and hands.
The number of actual injuries caused by snow blowers is likely quite higher than this, as the data from the CPSC only looked at those injuries treated at a hospital, and minor injuries were likely treated at home or another medical treatment facility not included in the reporting data.
Here are some things to keep in mind when purchasing and using your snow blower:
- For the most part, safety standards for snow blowers have been created by a mix of consumer groups, government agencies, producers, retailers, and suppliers and are completely voluntary for manufacturers. There are standards in place put forward by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) as well as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) that all snow blowers manufactured in the United States must follow.
- Look for a sticker on your snow blower that tells you it’s been approved by OPEI, ANSI, CSA, ASTM, ANSI, UL, CPSC or some other such safety association. Be cautious of purchasing a product that was made in China, as regulatory standards are much different there than in the United States.
- There are several types of snow blowers including gas and electric, single stage and two stage. How hard you need the machine to work and the size of the area you need to clear will determine the style you’re likely to purchase.
- Some safety features to look for include lights for better visibility in low light conditions; a handlebar dead-man control which will stop the impeller and/or auger when released, much like a lawn mower; and a tool for clearing clogs from the chute.
- If your snow blower came with a warranty or registration card, be sure to complete the form and mail it in to the manufacturer. This way, you’ll be notified of any recalls or other safety information in the event of a problem with your model. Surveys done by Consumer Reports National Research Center show most people seldom or never take this essential safety step.
- Never allow children under the age of 14 to operate a snow blower. Given their size and strength, a snow blower can easily overpower a small child and cause them to lose control of the machine. Be sure to explain that they must never put fingers or hands inside the chute or auger to clear any snow or ice blocks.
- If using an electric model, ensure the extension cord you’re using is rated for outdoor use and that it’s plugged into an outlet with a GFCI to prevent electrical injuries. Keep cord away from the auger. If using a gas model, ensure the engine has cooled completely before refuelling.
- Do not wear loose clothing or long scarves when operating your snow blower as these can easily become trapped in the machine, causing injury.
- Start and run your gas-powered snow blower outside and not in your garage in order to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
- You should wear eye and hearing protection when operating your snow blower, especially gas models which can be very loud. You should also check your local laws regarding noise ordinances in order to avoid a fine for operation of your snow blower.
- Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for setup, use and cleaning of your snow blower, and don’t hesitate to contact them if you should have a question about something specific that isn’t covered in your user manual.
- Ensure there is adequate ventilation before you begin cleaning your snow blower. The fumes from many household cleaners can be toxic and make you ill.
- Ensure the snow blower is turned off or unplugged before attempting to clear a clog from the chute or auger. Always use a clearing tool, even if it’s just a stick or broom handle, to clear clogs and not your hands.
- Ensure the snow blower is turned off before you clean any electrical component. Periodically tighten all nuts and bolts, as the blower’s vibrations can cause them to loosen over time.
In case of accident
- In case of a cut, pinch or mild bump, immediately remove yourself from the area and seek first aid treatment when necessary.
- If a more serious accident should occur, do not hesitate to contact 9-1-1.
With the above tips in mind, in no particular order, here are 10 of the snow blowers and snow removal products that we consider to be the safest, based on available features and average customer reviews and ratings: