Snowblowers injure approximately 5000 people a year and can cause devastating hand injuries. Even with added safety measures and warnings on modern snowblowers, hand injuries are still occurring at an alarming rate. We have reviewed our series of snowblower-related hand injuries to elucidate the epidemiology, patterns of injury, and strategies for prevention.
Questionnaires and treatment records of 22 individuals with snowblower injuries to the hand between 2002 and 2005 were reviewed. All patients were treated by a single hand surgeon at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, CT.
Eleven of the 22 held upper level educational degrees. Averaged results include operator experience of 15.17 years, machine age of 21.38 years, temperature of 29.05°F (−1.51°C), precipitation of 8.60 cm (3.38 in), and duration of use of 20.59 minutes excluding 3 outliers. Three patients consumed 1 alcoholic drink and 1 consumed 2 alcoholic drinks before injury. The majority of patients were aware of safety warnings (77.20%) and injured themselves with the machine running (82.35%) resulting in multiple digit injury (2.0 on average) on the dominant hand (68.18%).
Operator inexperience, low operator intelligence, and excessive alcohol consumption do not seem to contribute to injury. Instead, significant experience, older machines, short durations of use before injury, characteristic weather patterns, and underlying misperceptions about snowblower design and function typically set the stage for injury. Injuries may be prevented in the future by improving snowblower design and/or by making brief public service announcements.