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Winter is quickly approaching. It won’t be long before driveways, sidewalks and walkways will be covered with snow and ice; in some places, they already are. Every winter, snow removal becomes a necessary task for millions of Americans, but it doesn’t come without risks. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2012, more than 34,200 people were treated for injuries sustained while shoveling snow. Nearly 8,000 people were treated in emergency rooms for snow blower injuries, including broken bones, cuts, bruises and sprains. About 10 percent of these injuries resulted in amputation of the hand or fingers.

In an effort to ensure you don’t become one of this years’ statistics, Lawsuit Financial would like to remind everyone how to stay safe while shoveling snow or using a snow blower. Before going outside, dress in layers and wear water-repellant clothing to avoid the risk of frostbite and hypothermia. It is also important to wear a hat, mittens, warm socks, and boots that have good traction. Avoid long scarves and outerwear with strings that may become entangled in the moving parts of a snow blower. It is equally important to have a cell phone in the event of an emergency.

Tips when shoveling:

  • Warm up your muscles for 10 minutes with light exercise before beginning, especially if you do not exercise on a regular basis.
  • Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks and replenish fluids to prevent dehydration. If you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or other signs of a heart attack, seek emergency care.
  • Use a shovel that is comfortable for your height and strength. Do not use a shovel that is too heavy or too long for you.
  • When possible, push the snow instead of lifting it. Always lift with your legs and avoid bending at that waist.
  • Do not throw the snow over your shoulder or to the side as this requires a twisting motion that stresses your back and can lead to serious pain and injury.

Tips when using a snow blower:

  • Read and understand the owner’s manual for safe handling procedures. Know how to operate the controls and shut your equipment off quickly.
  • Never put your hand down the discharge chute or around blades to clear snow. If your snow blower jams or malfunctions, turn it off and wait at least 5 seconds for all moving parts to stop. Use a stick or broom handle to clear wet snow or debris from the chute.
  • Be aware of the recoil of the motor and blades after the machine has been turned off. When an obstruction is cleared, some machines may recoil, which can cause an injury.
  • Never leave the snow blower unattended while it is running.
  • Watch the cord if operating an electric snow blower to avoid tripping and falling.
  • Add fuel before starting the snow blower. Never add fuel while the engine is hot or running.
  • Check the area you intend to clear with your equipment, as snow can sometimes hide objects that may harm the machine or people. This includes doormats, hoses, toys, wires and other debris.
  • Wear protective goggles. Snow blowers can propel not only snow, but rocks or other objects at a great velocity.
  • Never operate the machine in an enclosed area.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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