Ready to use your snow blower safely? Check out these safe operating procedures

by Brianna Crandall — November 30, 2018 — The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) encourages business owners and facilities managers (FMs) to ready their snow throwers and other winter equipment before snow flurries and winter storms arrive. Clearing driveways, sidewalks and parking lots is no small job, and you rely on your outdoor power equipment to make these big jobs easy, but it’s also important to keep safety in mind when using snow throwers, often referred to as snow blowers.

OPEI President and CEO Kris Kiser advised:

Get your snow thrower serviced now, before repair shops are busy. Weather is more unpredictable than ever, so you want to be ready before the first flakes fall. Review your owner’s manual now so you can use your equipment safely, and have the right fuel on hand. Remember, protect your power. Gasoline-powered snow throwers should use E10 or less.

OPEI offers the following questions to get you and your facilities staff ready for “Old Man Winter:”


  • Have you read your owner’s manual? Read up for safe handling procedures. (See additional tips below.) 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 (or your staff, as for all points below) should be able to shut off your equipment quickly.
  • Have you checked your equipment since storing it? Make sure all equipment is completely powered off when checking it over. If you forgot to drain the fuel last winter before storing your snow blower, drain the gas tank now. Adjust any cables and check the auger — again, when the equipment is powered off.
  • Did you 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.
  • Have you purchased the right fuel?  Due to power outages, gas stations may be closed after a storm, so have some on hand. Be sure to use the correct fuel as recommended by your equipment’s manufacturer (for more information on fueling properly, see the Look Before You Pump website). Place gasoline in a fuel container and label it with the date purchased and the ethanol content of the fuel. Use fresh fuel in your snow thrower, as fuel that is more than 30 days old can phase separate and cause operating problems. Make sure fuel is stored safely.
  • Are you fueling safely? Before you start the engine, fill up the fuel tank on your snow thrower outside while the engine is cold. Never add fuel to a running or hot engine.
  • Are batteries charged? If using a battery/electric-powered snow-thrower, make sure batteries are fully charged, in case electricity goes out during a winter storm.
  • Is the area you intend to clear free of obstructions or hidden obstacles? Snow can hide objects. Doormats, hoses, low plant pots, cables and other items 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.
  • Are you dressed properly for winter weather? Locate your safety gear now and place it in an accessible location. Plan to wear safety glasses, gloves and footwear that can handle cold and slippery surfaces.


  • Do you have a clean-out tool or stick? NEVER put your hands inside the auger or chute. Use a clean-out tool (or stick) to unclog snow or debris from your snow blower.
  • Do you turn off your snow thrower if you need to clear a clog? Always turn off your snow blower and wait for all moving parts to come to a complete stop before clearing any clogs or debris.
  • Do you use your snow thrower in visible conditions? Never operate the snow thrower without good visibility or light. Always be sure of your footing and keep a firm hold on the handles. Walk — never run.
  • Can you aim your snow thrower with care? Never throw snow toward people or cars. Do not allow anyone to stand in front of or near your snow thrower when it is operating, especially not children or animals.
  • Will you use extreme caution on slopes and hills? Do not attempt to clear steep slopes, and use caution when changing directions on slopes or inclines.
  • Do you know where your cord is? If you have an electric-powered snow blower, be aware of where the power cord is at all times. Avoid tripping. Do not run over the power cord.

Additional Safety Tips and information about Snow Blowers and other outdoor power equipment are available on the OPEI website.