With any snowstorm comes the need to shovel, and many Americans rely on snow blowers to clean up the mess. But every winter, thousands of people end up in the emergency room with snow blower-related injuries to their hands.
Murray Daniels from Bedford, Mass., knows just how dangerous a snow blower can be. Three of his fingers on his right hand were mangled after an accident with a snow blower in 2018.
“I reached in to try to clear the snow away and that’s when it bit me,” Daniels told Inside Edition.
Daniels released the controls that make the blades spin, but the machine was still on idle.
“There must have been some built up tension and it released and it took off the end of my three middle fingers,” Daniels said. “In the emergency room, I kept telling the doctors, ‘I play piano, please save my hand.’”
Daniels is thankful surgeons at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston were able to save what was left of his hand. He underwent a partial amputation above the knuckles, and now plays the piano using prosthetics that stay on by suction.
The same thing happened to another man on a similar machine.
“I just reached too far down,” Jason Butler, of Maryland, said. “I heard my fingers snap. It literally sounded almost like a shot.”
Butler said he was one of three people in the emergency room that same day for snow blower injuries. He lost two fingertips in the incident.
“The pain was immediate and intense,” he recalled.
Butler said he is grateful for the care he received from Dr. Ryan Katz, a plastic surgeon at the Curtis National Hand Center at Medstar Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore.
Katz told Inside Edition he is no stranger to seeing snow blower related hand injuries.
“Every time it snows, we're worried we're going to see snow blower kind of injuries,” Katz said.
So how can you stay safe when operating a snow blower? Remember to turn the machine off and use an object to clear it of debris instead of your hand.
“If it does get clogged, you’re going to have to clear it,” Chief Steve Solomon of the Conway, New Hampshire Fire Department told Inside Edition Correspondent Lisa Guerrero. “Don’t do it with the machine running. Use a stick, a broom handle or a small shovel to clear it. Then, when you restart the machine, it will be able to throw it back out.”
Guerrero met with Solomon to test out the dangers of snow blowers by feeding a plastic hand in the chute with the machine still on.
“I think the only finger that would have survived this would have been the thumb,” Solomon said, pulling out the mangled plastic.
Solomon also cautioned that you should not use your hands to clear a clog even after you turn off the engine, because the blades can potentially still make a final turn and cause injury, and to follow clear warnings snow blower manufacturers include to keep hands and feet away from all moving parts.