Winter is here, and this year, it’s likely not going to take any prisoners. Record snowfall is expected across much of the United States, so you’ll want to get your snow clearing done with minimal time and hassle involved. If you own a snow blower, you’re in luck. These machines make quick work of the biggest snowfalls. However, they can be incredibly dangerous if not used properly. Here are a few tips on how to keep yourself safe this winter.
1. Educate yourself
Don’t venture out into the storm with a brand new machine that you have no idea how to use! Familiarize yourself with all functions of the machine. Including knowing how to clear a clog, which should be removed with a cleaning tool once the impeller blade has stopped–never with your hands or feet.
2. Clean up
Depending on the snowfall amount, you might not be able to see everything, but make sure your deck or driveway is clear of tools, furniture, doormats or toys. Even a neglected newspaper can damage your equipment, or worse–cause an injury.
3. Dress appropriately
Make sure to wear boots with good traction. You don’t want to be slipping and sliding while you’re trying to clear your driveway. This is also important in case your driveway is icy. Since snow blowers blow things around, you should also wear good eye protection. Avoid getting pieces of ice, dirt, or twigs in your eyes by wearing safety goggles or glasses.
Wear layers of clothing and make sure that all extremities, like your nose, ears, and fingers, are covered up. Avoid loose-fitting clothing (such as scarves), which can easily become tangled in a snow blower. Keep your clothing dry and try to limit the amount of time you spend outside in sub-zero temperatures.
You might also consider wearing earplugs or other hearing protection. Gas-powered models, in particular, can be noisy, and create volumes above 85 decibels (which is the threshold at which hearing damage can occur).
4. Keep the kids and Fido inside
Heavy ice and snow are typically ejected at a high speed and pressure. Don’t risk the safety of young children and pets and make sure they’re indoors before you start to work. This sounds like an obvious tip, but don’t let children run the equipment, either.
5. Start and stop appropriately
Don't start a snowblower inside an enclosed area, even if it’s just a garage or shed, regardless of whether the door is open. This can lead to dangerous carbon monoxide poisoning.
If you’re using an electric model, use an outdoor extension cord that is rated specifically for your model. This should be connected to an outlet with ground-fault-circuit-interrupter protection. Make sure you keep the cord clear while you’re working. If you use a gas model, make sure you shut the engine off and let it cool before adding more gasoline.
6. Clear regularly
Overexerting your machine can cause unnecessary stress on the equipment, as well as your own health. It can also lead to more frequent clogs and mechanical problems. Clear snow regularly to ensure that you aren’t overtaxing your snow blower, and make short, small passes as you clear.
In 2016, nearly 12,000 emergency room visits were due to snow blower-related injuries. Don’t let yourself be among this year’s statistics. Keep yourself safe–and your driveway cleared–by following our tips.
Caroline Witts is the regional marketing representative of LawnStarter
Hartford, an online and mobile platform that connects homeowners with lawn care professionals for care-free and efficient services!