• By Jason Howland

Mayo Clinic Minute: Snowblower safety

March 4, 2022

March has arrived, and with it comes hope for an early spring. But March can also be notorious for some powerful winter storms. If you live in a region with a lot of snow, investing in a snowblower can save you a lot of time and energy on those mornings when you have to clear the driveway to get to work or school. But Dr. Sanj Kakar, a Mayo Clinic orthopedic hand and wrist surgeon, says those snowblowers can be more dangerous than you think.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg (0:59) is in the downloads at the end of the post. Please "Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network." Read the script.

Shoveling snow by hand is time-consuming and often tough on your back. Using a snowblower makes things much quicker and easier, but it comes with risks.

"Since 2003, there's been 9,000 Americans who have injured their hand from a snowblower," Dr. Kakar says. "And most of the times, these are amputations – so significant injuries where they lose at least one or more fingers."

Dr. Kakar says many of those injuries happen when the chute gets clogged with heavy, wet snow and people stick their hand in the machine to unclog it.

But he says most people don't realize you can still injure your hand even when you turn the snowblower off.

"It's still actually captured that kinetic rotational energy in the system," Dr. Kakar explains. "So the snowblower is actually off, and, so, you think you're safe. But you put your hand in there, [and] that energy is still stored in the machine. And as soon as you clear the snow or a rock, it captures your hand with the glove, and pulls it in and causes your injury."

He's even seen wrist injuries when people use a stick to unclog a snowblower.

That's why he says the safest thing to do if your snowblower gets clogged is to go back to the old-fashioned snow shovel to finish clearing the driveway and let the clog melt out on its own.

For the safety of its patients, staff and visitors, Mayo Clinic has strict masking policies in place. Anyone shown without a mask was recorded prior to COVID-19 or recorded in an area not designated for patient care, where social distancing and other safety protocols were followed.