Japanese government calls for safe use of snow blowers, citing fatal accidents last winter

With the snowfall season having properly begun in the Hokkaido and Tohoku regions, the Consumer Affairs Agency is calling for snow blowers to be used in an appropriate manner to ensure safety in the wake of a series of fatal accidents last winter.

A snow blower has a metal auger that rotates to plow the snow. It then blows the snow away through a part called a chute. Many snow blowers start operating when the users grip a lever on the handle, making the auger begin to rotate, and stop when the lever is let go.

Between November last year and March this year, a total of 90 accidents involving snow blowers occurred in 11 prefectures, including Hokkaido, Akita and Niigata, according to the agency’s Consumer Safety Investigation Commission.

In the accidents, eight people died and 46 suffered serious injuries.

A survey by the commission showed that about 60 percent of snow blower users are in their 60s or older and that 35.8 percent of all respondents have had experiences that could have led to serious accidents.

The panel’s analysis of the cases that led to injuries confirmed dangerous acts by snow blower users, including standing in front of the auger while the engine was running, using snow blowers with the levers fixed by string or other items, and clearing away snow stuck in the chutes by hand.

In particular, it is believed that many users tend to fix the levers to keep the machines in action.

But doing this is very dangerous because the snow blowers will continue operating even if they fall down, and may run over users and cut them with the auger, the panel said.

The agency’s Consumer Safety Division urged users to be sure to operate the snow blower levers manually, and to never clear away snow stuck in the chutes by hand to prevent injuries.

The division also called on users to be careful not to fall down when they pull snow blowers backward and to make sure that other people are not around them when using the machines.

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