“Unfortunately, nearly all snowblower accidents result from human error,” said Taruna Madhav Crawford, M.D., a physician with MidAmerica Hand to Shoulder Clinic. “Patients state that either they were in a hurry or they forgot."
Chicago, IL (PRWEB) February 22, 2013
Hand surgeons from MidAmerica Hand to Shoulder Clinic brace themselves each time a heavy, wet snowfall occurs. They know they will be repairing gruesome finger and hand injuries throughout and after the storm.
Most injuries are caused from heavy, wet snow clogging the discharge chute of the snowblower, especially when six inches or more of snow falls. Operators attempt to clear the chute with their hands, and this leads to severe injury.
In fact, more than 5,500 snowblower injuries occur annually, and most of them happen to men in their mid 40s. Two-thirds of these injuries involve the fingers. The dominant hand is involved in 90 percent of accidents and 1,000 involve some degree of digital amputation.
“Unfortunately, nearly all snowblower accidents result from human error,” said Taruna Madhav Crawford, M.D., a physician with MidAmerica Hand to Shoulder Clinic. “Patients state that either they were in a hurry or they forgot. A fraction of a second is all it takes.
“Even after the snowblower engine is turned off,” she said, “an auger can rotate unexpectedly when the cause of a jam is removed. That rotation happens very forcefully.”
Injuries can occur when using an appropriate technique, too, such as clearing snow with a broom handle or small shovel, if the snowblower is not turned off prior to unclogging. The handle swings around causing a severe crush injury and multiple hand fractures.
The injuries range from severe cuts and crushed or broken bones to finger amputations and even death.
If the snowblower jams:
- Turn it off.
- Disengage the clutch.
- Wait five seconds to allow the blades to stop rotating.
- Beware of brief recall of motor and blades even after the machine is turned off.
- Always use a stick or broom handle to clear snow or ice jams.
- Never put your hand down the chute or around the blades.
- Keep all the shields in place.
The American Society for Surgery of the Hand offers these safety tips:
- Always read instructions before use.
- Never operate any machine while intoxicated. Concentration is needed.
- Never let children operate machinery.
- Always keep hands and feet away from moving parts.
- Never disable the safety mechanisms.
- Always wear slip-resistant footwear.
- Never wear loose clothing or a scarf that can be pulled into the intake of the snowblower.
- Always wear protective eye shields to minimize projectile injuries.
- Always make sure the snow is directed to a space free of people, children and pets.
- For electrical engines, know where the cord is at all times.
- For gas engines, never leave the snowblower running in an enclosed area as carbon monoxide accumulates.
While no recommendations can eliminate all injuries, if one follows the above guidelines, the risk of severe injury can be greatly reduced.
“Have a fun and safe winter season,” Dr. Madhav Crawford said, “but always realize the potential for danger with a snowblower.”
For more information, visit: http://www.handtoshoulderclinic.com or call 708-237-7200.
MidAmerica Hand to Shoulder Clinic, Chicagoland’s largest practice dedicated to the care of the hand and upper extremity, specializes in the treatment of orthopaedic injuries and conditions of the hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder. The highly specialized team of compassionate and professional surgeons, physicians, radiologists, therapists and orthopaedic technologists provides every patient with personalized care using the most up-to-date diagnostic tools and treatments. MidAmerica locations include Palos Hills, Mokena, Libertyville, Oakbrook Terrace and Schaumburg.