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  5. Prevent Death and Serious Injury by Snowblowers!

Prevent Death and Serious Injury by Snowblowers!

- Please Use Them Correctly and Safely -

December 23, 2021

Because of effects like heavy snow and harsh cold waves, more deaths and serious injuries by snowblowers were reported last winter than any other in the last 10 years. (There were seven reports of deaths and five reports of serious injuries in FY2020.)
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a shortage of snow removal workers again this winter; in some regions, many relatively older people and those unfamiliar with this kind of work are expected to be doing it.
Snowblowers should be handled with caution and the safety features should never be disabled. Be aware of your surroundings and let your family and neighbors know when you are going to use one.

1. Current state of snowblower accidents

During the last 10 years (FY2011 to FY2020), 40 accidents resulting in injury or death occurred due to snowblowers. 25 of those 40 cases*1 reportedly resulted in death. Victims in all age groups tended to be in areas with heavy snowfall, and accidents are increasing within the elderly population.

 (*1) Includes serious product accidents reported under the Consumer Product Safety Act and non-serious product accidents collected through the NITE Accident Information Collection System

2. Snowblower structure and part names

Figure 1: Snowblower structure (courtesy of NITE)

Dead man's clutch mechanism (safety feature)

A safety feature that automatically stops the rotating parts and the snowblower's movement when the user releases the operating handle (clutch lever). This prevents the machine from operating when the user lets it go

Figure 2: Dead man's clutch mechanism (safety feature) (courtesy of NITE)

* ”JYOSETSUKI ANZEN KYOGIKAI” has been making safety features mandatory for its member manufacturers' snowblowers (walk behind type) since April 2004.

Figure 2: Dead man's clutch mechanism (safety feature) (courtesy of NITE)

* ”JYOSETSUKI ANZEN KYOGIKAI” has been making safety features mandatory for its member manufacturers' snowblowers (walk behind type) since April 2004.

3. Examples of snowblower accidents

(1) Accident: Pinned under the snowblower

Date: February 2019 (Niigata Prefecture, 80-89 year old male, died)

[Accident description]

One person died by being pinned under the snowblower while it was in use.

[Accident cause]

The user did not have the emergency stop safety key attached to his body that would have caused the snowblower to stop when he fell over or let it go. The snowblower was in reverse and the user fell; the snowblower moved on top of him, and he was pinned under it. The snowblower in use was one that did not have a dead man's clutch.

(2) Accident: Caught between a rear wall and snowblower

Date: February 2016 (Iwate Prefecture, 70-79 year old male, died)

[Accident description]

The user was caught between the snowblower and a shed's fence; after being transported to the hospital, he was confirmed dead.

[Accident cause]

The user was trapped between the machine and the iron pipes behind him while in reverse. It is thought that the user was crushed; the movement clutch lever was locked in the "on" position because it had been covered, and the snowblower continued to reverse.

[Points of Caution]

Figure 3: Fall accident depiction (courtesy of NITE)

(3) Accident: Caught in the auger

Date: February 2020 (Hokkaido, 60-69 year old female, died)

[Accident description]

The user was found caught within the snowblower's auger and confirmed dead.

[Accident cause]

The dead man's clutch mechanism's clutch lever was immobilized with a rope with the snowblower engine still running, so it is thought that the accident was caused by the user moving to the front auger area for some reason and accidentally getting caught in it.

[Points of Caution]

Figure 4: Depiction of disabling a safety feature (courtesy of NITE)

Disabling safety features prevents the snowblower from stopping if the user falls down, and the user may get pulled in by or caught within it. Disabling the dead man's clutch (by immobilizing it, for example) or using the snowblower without the emergency stop safety key installed are extremely dangerous acts that must not be done.

Some older snowblowers (released before April 2004) also do not have safety features like dead man's clutches. These models must be used with even greater care. It is safer to use models with safety features such as emergency stop bars and buttons.

(4) Accident: Injured while attempting to remove clogged snow

Date: January 2019 (Niigata Prefecture, 60-69 year old male, seriously injured)

[Accident description]

While trying to remove clogged snow in the snowblower chute exit, the user injured a finger on his right hand.

[Accident cause]

The user removed clogged snow in the snowblower chute exit directly by hand, without stopping the rotating blade or using the included snow removal tool. The accident is thought to have been caused by the rotating blade inside the chute exit touching him.

[Points of Caution]


Figure 5: Depiction of snow removal tool use (courtesy of NITE)

References

In addition to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Consumer Affairs Agency and the National Institute of Technology and Evaluation (NITE) are issuing calls for attention related to snowblower accidents today.

Division in Charge

Product Accident Information and Analysis Office, Industrial and Product Safety Policy Group, Product Safety Division

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