Snowblower danger

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Holy crap, I read about the amputations just here in CT over the past few days. 12 patients lose 19 fingers. .
What is shocking though, half of the losses occurred after the engine was shut off. It seems that the auger can retain power if it is jammed the right way and when released, it will jump far enough to take a finger or two with it.
Use that little shovel that comes with it, or a stick. Keep the hands out.
http://www.wtnh.com/dpp/weather/winter_weather/snow-blower-injuries-across-the-state#.URsEs8Ao7cs
Snow blower injuries across the state
Using them with caution
Updated: Tuesday, 12 Feb 2013, 12:16 AM EST Published : Tuesday, 12 Feb 2013, 12:16 AM EST Bob Wilson
HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) -- News 8 is warning you about a piece of equipment that residents have relied on over the past few days. Emergency rooms all over the state report that they've had to treat several patients for snow blower related injuries.
"I've seen people and heard of people doing it but I don't know of anybody who was injured," said George Howard of West Hartford. "Been using the snow blower since the storm ended on Saturday, about 11 o'clock. Been working 14, 15 hours a day."
Howard has been doing snow removal for years and while he knows not to stick his hand into a running snow blower, people do it.
At Hartford Hospital alone, 5 people were treated for lost fingers over the weekend.
Dr. Allan Babigan is a plastic surgeon and says with this heavy wet snow, he is surprised the number isn't higher.
"We had a 31 inch snow storm and we had 12 people come into the ER who lost 19 fingers and all of them were amputations," Dr. Babigan said.
Dr. Babigan says especially with the rain, the snow is really heavy and wet which can stall the snow blower, making it even more dangerous. The snow binds the blades and they are still under pressure. Because it's off you think there is no danger but when you reach in with your hand and remove the snow, the blades can spin taking your fingers off.
"It might only be a quarter turn or a half turn but that is enough to cause a fracture or soft tissue injury," said Dr. Babigan.
"Half the people who lose their fingers do so when is it off," said News 8's Bob Wilson.
"Really? Well that is good news to me. I will have to think about that next time I put my finger in there," said Howard.
Howard is experienced recommends using a stick or a broom handle to clear the snow. Dr. Babigan has done exhaustive research and says most injuries take place during the first 20 minutes of snow blowing, only feet from the garage.
"We found that these were people who were very familiar with a snow blower and had been doing it for years and they thought they could get away with it this time," said Dr. Babigan.
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-snip-

Yepp-- My father-in-law was in his 60s when he dropped his finger count to 7.5. With the engine off- and his son as a witness. Shear pin didn't save his fingers, but the glove he was wearing survived, but needed washing.
The embarrassment hurt him more than the amputation. He had 4 years as a Seabee and 40 more working construction and was more knowledgeable and safety oriented than most. Murphy is a bitch.
Jim
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wrote:

After working a few years as a faller when much younger, I almost took off the bottom half of my left hand with a trim chainsaw I was lucky and ended up with some impressive scar tissue and not operational loss of hand and fingers Thick leather work gloves also helped keep things that way..
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wrote:

A shear pin isn't going to save something as fragile as fingers.
The first thing I taught my son, when he was old enough to run the snow blower was that he was to *NEVER* put his hands into the business end. I kept a stick in the garage just for clearing it (my later snow blower came with one strapped to the auger chute). When the snow was wet and sloppy, the stick was stuck in a snow bank at the end of the driveway where the blower always plugged up (salt left by the road crew).

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To the op Thank you for posting this. I have an old snow blower and will keep the engine compression stored energy in mind. Thanks Mark
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The other BIG DANGER to snow blowers is that they throw rocks etc far longer distances than snow.
They can be a big hazard to nearby glass, vehicles, and people who happen to be in the area.
You have been warned!
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On 2/12/2013 10:17 PM, Ed Pawlowski wrote:

We all have our share of dumb things that we do but using a sacrificial object to clear an area in moving equipment was drilled into my head when I saw someone lose two fingers when I was a kid.
I am not sure what stores the energy as described in a snowblower. I only have experience with a few models and have never observed any sort of snap back after a jamb is cleared.
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On Wednesday, February 13, 2013 8:02:13 AM UTC-6, George wrote:

I would suggest (not sure) that if an engine stalls at compression...it will release energy backwards.
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ill release energy backwards.
That would require the clutch to be engaged on the blower though. Highly unlikely unless the it was tied down.
Harry K
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On Wednesday, February 13, 2013 10:18:28 AM UTC-6, Harry K wrote:

rt

will release energy backwards.

Good point! No idea then!
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On Wednesday, February 13, 2013 10:38:19 AM UTC-6, Bob_Villa wrote:

Most auger drive clutches are V-belt slack-idlers. A cable keeps an idler p ulley against the un-driven side of the belt and a spring returns the idler arm when tension is released from the cable. I'm suggesting that under extreme load/tension or ice build-up...the arm do esn't return to a disengaged position. The motor stores energy on its compr ession stroke and releases it when the jamb is cleared. (add to this, some larger machines have 2 belts with uneven tension)
That's my latest theory anyway! (I need to exercise the old brain!)
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pulley against the un-driven side of the belt and a spring returns the idl er arm when tension is released from the cable.

doesn't return to a disengaged position. The motor stores energy on its com pression stroke and releases it when the jamb is cleared. (add to this, som e larger machines have 2 belts with uneven tension)

Sounds good here. I can't see any other way there could be "stored energy".
Harry K
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pulley against the un-driven side of the belt and a spring returns the idl er arm when tension is released from the cable.

doesn't return to a disengaged position. The motor stores energy on its com pression stroke and releases it when the jamb is cleared. (add to this, som e larger machines have 2 belts with uneven tension)

Hide quoted text -

It's also possible that the whole concept that amputation occurs half the time when the snowblower is off is just wrong. The article quotes one doctor saying it occurs, at least sometimes. The part about it ocurring half the time is attributed to a reporter.
There are several possible scenarios that I would suggest. One is that the frequency of this power-off amputation may be vastly overstated. Another is that it may be from some particular kinds of snowblowers, perhaps ones different from the typical residential type. Maybe some huge ones that are say hydraulically powered? Or it could also be that people show up and CLAIM it happened with the machine off, because either they don't want to look stupid, or are figuring on keeping their option open to suing someone, like the manufacturer.
I just find it hard to believe if this is a real problem that occurs in 50% of the amputation cases, that we have not heard about it yet. You would also expect that all the manufacturers of eqpt would have a major warning about the possibility. Yet evey manual I've ever seen for the kind of blowers we typically use, just says to make sure it's turned off. If that was not sufficient, you would think they almost certainly would have some verbage in there to protect people and themselves. Not to mention folks like consumer product safety folks acting.....
Call me skeptical.....
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I agree...it may be totally over-stated! *L*
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On Thu, 14 Feb 2013 07:17:09 -0800 (PST), Bob_Villa
Possible, but I'm not going to stick my fingers into it and test it. They give you a paddle to use to free it up.
Here is the same thing from another source http://www.newsmaxhealth.com/Health-News/snowblowers-accidents-amputations-injuries/2013/02/08/id/489579 Each year, about 5,700 people in the United States go to the emergency room for treatment of snowblower-related injuries such as broken bones, cuts to skin and soft tissue, bruises, and sprains. About 10 percent of injuries involve amputation of the hand or fingers.
"Snowblower injuries tend to happen when someone stops paying attention for even a few seconds," Dr. R. Michael Koch, chief of the microsurgery and replantation service at the Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., said in a center news release.
"Even after the snowblower is turned off, tension is stored in the rotor blades. A hand or finger stuck in to remove wet snow or ice is at risk for being cut, mangled or even amputated," added Koch, who is also an assistant professor of surgery at New York Medical College and a surgeon with the New York Group for Plastic Surgery.
http://www.nj.com/morris/index.ssf/2013/02/man_loses_fingers_in_snowblowe.html ROXBURY — A 56-year-old Landing man was rushed to the hospital Friday night after a snowblower sliced off two of his fingers, police said. Roxbury Police Lt. Tim Driscoll said the accident occurred around 6:54 p.m. Friday on Shippenport Road while the man was clearing snow when his snowblower became clogged.
It was unclear whether the machine had been turned off, Driscoll said, based on the police reports.
"Ninety-five percent of the time (with these accidents), there's pressure in the (clogged) machine even after it's turned off," Driscoll said.
http://www.handctr.com/snowblower-injuries.html As snow clogs the outflow chute, the impeller whose job it is to send that snow high up into the air, suddenly stops. The operator usually does not expect that there is a chance of injury from clearing a clogged outflow chute. As the finger loosens the snow, the impeller rapidly starts to spin again causing damage to anything that is in its way. Even with the machine turned off, by a seemingly knowing and experienced user there can be torque left in the system and the impeller can still spin rapidly once cleared causing injury. Some machines seemingly have caused injury despite claims that "all safety precautions where followed." Forgetting though the most important one: not placing fingers in the harms way
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pulley against the un-driven side of the belt and a spring returns the idl er arm when tension is released from the cable.

doesn't return to a disengaged position. The motor stores energy on its com pression stroke and releases it when the jamb is cleared. (add to this, som e larger machines have 2 belts with uneven tension)

Hide quoted text -

I received this from a guy that knows a bit about snowblowers. I wondered how the auger could still be engaged after a stall since on my machine (the only one I am familiar with) once I release the auger engagement handle, the auger would no longer be under the control of the engine. Therefore, at least on my machine, any residual energy from the compression stroke wouldn't (shouldn't) be transferred to the auger. Apparently many of the older machines are not set up the same way.
"Derby, On some of the old girls like my JD 826, the auger engagement is on or off from the handlebar (lever locks the idler pulley into the belt). There's no handle control for it. Older Ariens are similar, locking the auger idler into the belt down by the bucket. My guess would be the engine got stalled near full compression. Once you relieve the impeller from blockage the full compression of the engine is released and you have one or more rotations of the counterweights of the crankshaft. Enough to make a finger hurt bad."
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On Thu, 14 Feb 2013 12:57:42 -0800 (PST), DerbyDad03

pulley against the un-driven side of the belt and a spring returns the idler arm when tension is released from the cable.

doesn't return to a disengaged position. The motor stores energy on its compression stroke and releases it when the jamb is cleared. (add to this, some larger machines have 2 belts with uneven tension)

That can happen on the really OLD blowers I think Ariens stopped building them that way in the late sixties or early seventies. And even on them, from what I remember they were disconnected from the engine by the wheel drive clutch - so the onlky way you would get pinched is if the machine rolled forward or back with the auger connected to the wheels???
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snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

-snip-

Mine was mid-late 70's and though I'd seen it do that, until DD posted I couldn't remember why. It's only been 2 years since I used it.
You'd throw 2 levers on the side to engage the augur drive. [one linked the drive shaft-- the other an idler pulley]
The lever on the handle only engaged the drive clutch [a friction disk]-- the power was always spinning that disk. There were times over the years when the clutch was out of adjustment and I would put it in neutral to keep it in place.
I've seen my oldies do that- jump back when cleared. Never had my fingers in the way, though.
I think you could cause some pain now if you had your hand in the wrong place when spinning the impeller back to clear something. You might need help to get your hands around both-- but maybe that guy that can watch his impeller spin up from behind the machine could do it.
Jim
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Another email from a friend on the issue...I've always been cautious around the front end of my machine, but now I will be even more so.
"Oh Yeah, there is pent up tension and energy in there! A few years ago my neighbor clogged up his 2-stage snowblower. He shut off the engine, and started digging out the clog with his hand. I bet it took the fire dept. 2 hours to get his hand out of that machine. He did not not lose any fingers, but they sure were mangled. When I have to clear my machine, with the cute little shovel it came with, I stand off to the side in case the machine want to kick that shovel back out."
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On Fri, 15 Feb 2013 07:02:35 -0800 (PST), DerbyDad03

That can and will happen on the old (and or cheap) machines without dead-man handles for both auger and wheel drive if the engine is shut off with the auger still engaged - particularly if the wheels are also engaged. ( and if the engine is stalled due to the clog it is especially dangerous) If the auger is disengaged, the wheels are disengaged, and the engine is shut off, it is virtually impossible.
Just takes some (rather uncommon) common sense when working with them.
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