January 20, 2019

How to Avoid (Sometimes Serious) Snowblower Injuries

Tips for clearing your snow more safely

Snowblower blades in snow

A fierce winter storm just dumped a good 10 inches of snow in your driveway overnight. So do you save your back and fire up the snowblower instead of grabbing your shovel?


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

You might think it’s definitely the safer option, but orthopaedic surgeon David Shapiro, MD, says snowblowers cause more than 5,000 serious injuries every year.

Where the danger lies

Many people don’t realize that turning off the motor on a snowblower to unclog snow doesn’t mean that it’s safe to put a hand inside.

Either there will be some stored energy in the impeller, which is the second blade that throws the snow. Or on some of the very old ones, there will still be compression in the engine — even after the motor is turned off. When you suddenly unblock that clog of snow, it just shoots out like a missile and it’s essentially like a blast injury to the fingers.

Most snowblower injuries, Dr. Shapiro says, occur on the hands and can range from cuts and lacerations to full-blown amputations.

Heavier, wetter snow is more likely to cause injury, he adds, because it’s the type that often causes a blockage in the machine.

Suggested by Cleveland Clinic

Does What Kind of Snow Shovel You Use Affect How Badly Your Back Hurts After?


Are newer snowblowers any safer?

Regulations have made recent models safer by including mechanisms that require you to have your hand on the control at all times to make the machine operational.

And new snowblowers are also now required to come with a stick on the front that’s specifically for clearing clogged snow.

Still, Dr. Shapiro says people do find ways around this, which can set them up for a very bad accident.

What to do if you get injured by your snowblower

While almost all snowblower-related injuries are preventable, Dr. Shapiro notes that accidents are always possible. So it’s important to get help immediately if an accident occurs.

“If you do get an injury, the first thing to do is carefully assess it,” he says. “Take the gloves off. Bandage the fingers as best you can. And depending on the magnitude of the injury, head to the emergency room.”


Most times, injuries happen when people let their guard down. So even if a person has been using a snowblower for years, Dr. Shapiro says it’s important to follow the rules every single time to avoid a devastating injury.

“It’s very important to follow the rules — they’re there for a reason and they do make a difference,” he says. “It’s not typically the novice snowblower user who gets injured. It’s the person who’s been using it for five or 10 years, has considerable experience with it and may think that they can get away with something that they didn’t think they could get away with when they first got the machine.”

Related Articles

Child cries on a slide at the playground.
August 23, 2023
How To Treat 12 Common Playground Injuries

From split lips to splinters, a little first-aid can get your kiddo back on the swing set in no time

A lit candle on a table.
November 21, 2022
Worried if Candles Are Toxic?

Candles release hydrocarbons into the air, but don’t pose a significant health risk

Parent and baby share a room for sleeping.
August 8, 2022
Is Bed Sharing With a Baby Safe?

Experts recommend having infants sleep in your bedroom but not in your bed

child plays in snow with sand toys
February 9, 2022
Fun and Safe Winter Activities for Kids

Have a snow — ball and help them strengthen their developmental skills

mom and daughter sledding during winter
February 8, 2022
How To Stay Safe While Sledding

An ER doc shares tips for being careful while having fun

woman working on her leg in rehab
December 16, 2020
10 Tips to Help You Choose a Rehab Facility

Common questions you should ask to find a rehabilitation solution that’s right for you

woman enjoying fireworks
June 28, 2020
Fireworks Safety: How You Can Prevent Injuries

Tips for a fun, safe holiday for adults and children

Top view of person sitting in bathtub with cold water and lots of ice.
November 26, 2023
Brrr! What To Know About Cold Plunges

An ice bath can ease sore muscles and decrease inflammation after a workout

Trending Topics

close up of keto gummies
Do Keto Gummies Work for Weight Loss? Are They Safe?

Research is inconclusive whether or not these supplements are helpful

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

Older person postioned sideways showing dowager hump.
Dowager’s Hump: What It Is and How To Get Rid of It

The hump at the base of your neck may be caused by osteoporosis or poor posture