A bloody bandage, tears, pain and outside the first heavy wet snow covers the ground. Snowblower season has arrived. The emergency room called me to see the patient. I examine her, fingers and hand are mangled. The patient is angry with herself. She tells me she knew better, was not thinking and was in a rush.
Some parts cut off sharply can be reattached with microsurgery. I am not able to reattach these parts. The zone of injury is too extensive. Instead of a sharp cut these fingers were torn off. The operation will be to salvage as much function as I can. As I am discussing the amputations and other options, I contemplate how this injury did not need to happen.
Snowblowers are useful but dangerous tools. Each year we see patients in the emergency rooms with injuries from snowblowers. The injuries include mangled hands with crushed or amputated fingers, injured arms or legs, bullet like projectile injuries, burns, and frostbite.
Injuries occur throughout the winter but many seem concentrated during the early heavy snows. We see around 10 to 25 major injuries here in Utica. Better dealers emphasize safety essentials. Manuals and labels also help warn of dangers. Experienced users can be careless with details. Relearn your machine each season.
Prevention is the key.
- Do not stick hand in chute or near moving parts.
- There is less clogging if you do not rush the job.
- Do not disable safety mechanisms.
- Make sure the machine has stopped completely before working on it.
- Be prepared for a clogged machine to jump when freed.
- Never let children operate a snowblower.
- Watch where the snow is going.
- Is the area clear of other people, children, and pets?
- Eye shields minimize damage from projectiles.
- Wear dry protective clothing and gloves to minimize frostbite and damage from the cold.
- Wear footwear that will improve footing on slippery surfaces.
- Handle gasoline with care, it is highly flammable and its vapors are explosive.
- You can also burn yourself on the hot parts of the machine.