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Preparation is key to safe snow blower operation

Snow blowers can make light work of clearing sidewalks and driveways. Before tackling a big snowfall, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute recommends snow blower owners to check their equipment and read the manual. File photo

With snowfall totals adding up, people around the region are getting their snow blowers out of storage.

Before the next big snow hits, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute recommends owners prepare their snow blowers ahead of time and review the manual.

"Weather today is more unpredictable than ever, and you need to have your snow thrower serviced and ready to power up," OPEI President and CEO Kris Kiser said in a news release. "You want to have the right fuel on hand and review your owner's manual now so you can use your equipment safely."

The institute offers the following preparation tips:

Prepare before it snows

• Review your owner's manual. Check the manual for safe handling procedures. If you lost your manual, you can look it up online (and store a copy on your computer so you have the manual available to reference in the future). Review how to operate the controls. You should be able to shut off your equipment quickly.

• Check your equipment. The snow thrower should be completely powered off when you are checking it over. If you forgot to drain the fuel last winter before storing your snow thrower, drain the gas tank now. Adjust any cables. Check the auger.

• Put your equipment where you can get to it easily. Move your equipment to a convenient and accessible location, so you can get to it easily when you need it.

• Purchase your fuel. Often gas stations are closed after a storm. Be sure to use the correct fuel, as recommended by your equipment's manufacturer (for more information on fueling properly see Fill up the fuel tank outside before you start the engine and while the engine is cold. Never add fuel to a running or hot engine.

• Store your fuel properly. Place fuel in a fuel container and label it with the date purchased and the ethanol content of the fuel. Fuel that is more than 30 days old can phase separate and cause operating problems. It's important to use fresh fuel in your snow thrower. Make sure fuel is stored safely and out of the reach of children.

• Tidy the area you intend to clear with your equipment. Snow can sometimes hide objects. Doormats, hoses, balls, toys, boards, wires and other debris should be removed from the areas you intend to clear. When run over by a snow thrower, these objects may harm the machine or people.

• Plan to dress for winter weather. Locate your safety gear now, and place it in an accessible closet or location in your home. Plan to wear safety glasses, gloves and footwear that can handle cold and slippery surfaces.

Operate equipment safely

• Never put your hands inside the auger or chute. Use a clean out tool (or stick) to unclog snow or debris from your snow thrower. Your hands should never go inside the auger or chute.

• Turn off your snow thrower if you need to clear a clog. If you need to remove debris or unclog snow, always turn off your snow thrower. Wait for all moving parts to come to a complete stop before clearing any clogs or debris.

• Only use your snow thrower in visible conditions. Never operate the snow thrower without good visibility or light.

• Aim your snow thrower with care. Never throw snow toward people or cars. Do not allow anyone to stand in front of your snow thrower. Keep children or pets away from your snow thrower when it is operating.

• Use extreme caution on slopes and hills. Use caution when changing directions on slopes. Do not attempt to clear steep slopes.

• Know where your cord is. If you have an electric powered snow thrower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times. Avoid tripping. Do not run over the power cord.

• Keep pets and children inside. Kids and pets may love to play in the white stuff, but it's best to keep them inside your home and under supervision while you are using your snow thrower to clear a path or drive. Do not allow them to play in the snow as it is tossed out of the snow thrower's chute.

More safety tips and information are available at

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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