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For those of us in snowy areas, the snowblower or thrower is one of the great modern inventions, delivering us from the back-breaking work of shoveling tons of heavy snow by hand. Plus, let’s face it, a snowblower can be fun to use.

But these powerful machines aren’t toys, and shouldn’t be used as such. Here are some simple ways to use yours safely:

Before you begin

  • Read and understand the procedures and precautions in your owner's manual.
  • Dress for safety: wear hearing protection, boots with good traction, and snug clothing. (Loose scarves, jackets or pants could get caught in moving parts.)
  • Clear the area of all obstacles that can clog the chute.
  • Start gas blowers outside, not in a garage or shed.
  • Make sure the engine is fully cooled before refilling a gas-powered machine.
  • Plug electric blowers into extension cords rated for outdoor use and GFCI outlets.

While in motion

  • Keep others out of the work area, especially kids and pets, who don't understand the dangers.
  • Do not drink before or while using a snowblower. Keep a clear head and concentrate at all times.
  • Operate the machine only in good light and visibility.
  • Never move at a pace faster than a walk with the machine.
  • Never leave the blower or thrower unattended, and never let kids operate it.
  • Don't try to clear steep slopes with the snowblower; the machine isn't designed to do that safely.

According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, each year hundreds of people suffer hand injuries or amputations by clearing clogged augers or discharge chutes while the machine is still running.

If your blower jams, you should:

  • Turn off the machine and wait at least five seconds for the blades to stop completely.
  • Never put your hands down chutes or around blades.
  • Never remove shields or other safety devices.
  • Always use a stick or broom handle to clear impacted snow.

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