Jan 6, 2005

Jennifer Gremmels

Hand Surgeons Urge Snowblower Safety this Winter


Rosemont, Ill. - The American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) recommends that individuals take the proper precautions to prevent hand-related injuries while removing snow this winter. Each year, thousands of people suffer maiming or amputations of their fingers or hands due to improper handling of snowblowers.

”Snowblower injuries are usually very serious, often requiring delicate surgery followed by weeks or even months of rehabilitation,” said David M. Lichtman, MD, President-Elect of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Most snowblower operators aren’t aware that the impeller is only two inches below the opening of the discharge tube. Also keep in mind that many snowblowers are in use today that were manufactured before safety regulations were mandated. Misuse of these machines could be lethal.”

In the early 1970s, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) passed regulations to require manufacturers to include a deadman's control or a kill switch on snow blowers. However, some of the old snow blowers, with neither a deadman's control nor an m-wire, are still in circulation today.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), two-thirds of snowblower injuries involve fingers, and—among consumer products—snowblower misuse is a leading cause of finger amputations. In a 1999 study, 3,546 injuries were found to be snow-blower related (but not necessarily product-caused) accidents. Of those injuries, approximately 3,000 involved hands and fingers, including 283 finger amputations. With proper safety techniques, you can stay away from the hospital.

To prevent hand injuries, the ASSH suggests the following safety tips if your snowblower jams:  

-Turn it off

-Never put your hand down the chute or around the blades

-Disengage clutch

-Wait five seconds after shutting machine off to allow impeller blades to stop rotating

-Always use a stick or broom handle to clear impacted snow. Never use your hand

-Keep all shields in place. Do not remove the safety devices on the machine

-Keep hands and feet away from all moving parts

-Keep a clear head, concentrate, and do not drink before using your snowblower

Should you cut your finger or hand, bleeding from minor cuts will often stop on their own by applying direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth. If continuous pressure does not slow or stop the bleeding after 15 minutes, an emergency room visit may be required. Other reasons to visit an ER are to update your tetanus protection, if necessary, or to check for tendon or nerve injury if motion or sensation (feeling) is lost in the finger.


About Hand Surgeons
Hand surgeons have received specialized additional training in the treatment of hand problems in addition to their board certified specialty training in orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, or general surgery. To become members of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, hand surgeons must have completed a full year of such additional training and must pass a rigorous certifying examination. Many hand surgeons also have expertise with problems of the elbow, arm, and shoulder. Some hand surgeons treat only children, some treat only adults, and some treat both. Common problems treated include carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, wrist pain, sports injuries of the hand and wrist, fractures of the hand, wrist, and forearm, and trigger fingers. Other problems treated by hand surgeons include arthritis, nerve and tendon injuries, and congenital limb differences (birth defects). Not all problems treated by a hand surgeon need surgery. Hand surgeons often recommend non-surgical treatments, such as medication, splints, therapy, and injections. Hand surgeons are specialists devoted to hand care.

About the ASSH
The mission of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) is to advance the science and practice of hand surgery through education, research and advocacy on behalf of patients and practitioners. Founded in 1946, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand is the oldest medical specialty society in the United States devoted entirely to continuing medical education related to hand surgery.