Preventing snowblower and shovel injuries

This latest winter storm is giving us another combo of snow, sleet and rain. And that means what's on the ground is heavy - setting the stage for shoveling and snowblower injuries.

It hasn't snowed a lot this year, so many of us aren't exactly in "snow-removal shape" and that could increase your chances of getting hurt.

Make sure you're paying attention and following all of the safety rules - especially if you have enough snow to use a snowblower.

Dr. Thomas Gillon of the Philadelphia Hand to Shoulder Center has seen his fair share of snow blower injuries. The machines can move a lot of snow quickly, but they can also cause life-changing damage in the blink of an eye.

"They're usually very severe injuries to the hand, the fingertips - partial amputations, complete amputations," he said.

He says accidents typically happen when someone tries to clear heavy, wet snow from the blades with their hands instead of using a broom handle or the clearing tool that comes with many machines.

"They think the snow blower is off, and it is off, but there's built-up tension in the belt, and once you do clear it, it's going to turn, and it has enough energy to still injure the hand and the fingers," said Dr. Gillon.

People can also get hurt putting their hands in the throwing chute - some snowblowers have a second propeller there.

"Thats what people dont appreciate, they put their hand down into the shoot trying to get that out, thinking they are away from these blades and the 2nd blade thats in there gets their fingers," said Dr. Gillon.

So the message: Never use your hands to clear a snow blower.

Also, keep scarves and jackets from dangling down and make sure kids aren't in the area.

Snow shoveling can also cause injuries to the shoulder, elbow, wrist and back.

"One of the safety things for snow, you should be pushing the snow instead of lifting if you can," said Dr. Gillon.

And whether you're shoveling or using a snow blower, warm up inside beforehand - run in place, do some stretching.

Also take breaks and if you're out of shape, older or have an injury, hire someone to shovel for you.

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