Keys to snowblower safety: Silicone spray and a broom handle

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

BENSALEM, Pa. (WPVI) -- This blizzard is dropping enormous amounts of snow.

And all of that has to be cleared from driveways & sidewalks.

Snowblowers are a big help, but they can be dangerous, too.

In just minutes, snowblowers can move thousands of pounds of snow - a job that could take hours by shovel.

It does the job with an auger, metal blades that spin, chewing through snow.

Every winter, local emergency rooms see dozens of people hurt by those blades -

Nationwide, 25,000 need medical help.

"Snowblower injuries are devastating," says Dr. Charles Leinberry, a hand specialist with the Rothman Institute at Jefferson.

And he says it's very tough to repair the wounds.

"The injuries in the hands are amputations, or severe cuts," says Dr. Leinberry.

"They're kind of like a firecracker, where you're not going to put those fingers back on," he adds.

Dr. Leinberry says most injuries come when someone uses their hand to clear snow from a clogged chute.

Even when the machine is turned off, the motor and blades can recoil, or move briefly, when the clog is removed.

So he says always use a solid object like a stick or broom handle to clear a jam.

"The new ones even come with a small shovel," he adds.

From more than 15 years of experience living in Chester County and clearing his own snow at home, Dr. Leinberry also offers a tip to keep snow from clogging in the first place.

"What I used to do, I would spray my blades and my chute with WD-40 or some kind of silicone spray to allow that to kind of slide out," he says.

Hot engines and flying debris can also be hazards with snowblowers.

When you use one, keep everyone - especially children - far away.

Be sure to wear waterproof boots with good grip, to avoid slips and falls.

And don't forget, it may not seem like it, but running a snowblower is a strenuous activity, so take frequent breaks and drink plenty of fluids.

For more tips, check out OrthoInfo, from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.