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  • Do Leaf Blowers Create Hazards?

    leaf blowerYears ago, people tackled the annual fall chore of cleaning up leaves by using rakes and elbow grease. Today, leaf blowers proliferate and are the power tools of choice for making this task much easier. However, people are becoming more aware that leaf blowers do create hazards. These machines not only pose risks to the operator, but also health hazards to individuals nearby who are exposed to dangerous fumes and noise. Individuals who use leaf blowers should be aware of these dangers as well as the possibility that that their equipment may be defective.

    Why Are Leaf Blowers Hazardous?

    Leaf blowers are hazardous for several reasons, including the following:

    • They pose a risk of injury to operators.
    • Their fumes pollute the air.
    • They generate dust and particulate matter that can cause breathing problems.
    • They produce noise pollution, which can contribute to hearing loss, stress, hypertension, headaches, and other problems.

    Gas-powered leaf blowers generate many of the same greenhouse gases and other air pollutants that cars and trucks produce. One study by Edmunds’ InsideLine.com found that a consumer-grade leaf blower emitted almost seven times more pollutants than a large pick-up truck.

    Many leaf blowers use two-cycle engines which do not have independent lubrication systems. As a result, they require fuel that is mixed with oil. This combination produces carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and various nitrous oxides which smell unpleasant and are harmful to inhale.

    In addition to generating fumes, leaf blowers also blow dust, animal feces, and other harmful particulate matter into the air, which can cause significant lung damage.

    What Types of Injuries Are Caused by Leaf Blowers?

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) National Electronic Injury Surveillance System estimates that several thousand people go to the hospital each year in the U.S. due to injuries caused by leaf blowers, mulchers, and grinders.

    The types of injuries caused by leaf blowers include the following:

    • Bruises and contusions
    • Cuts and lacerations
    • Electrical burns
    • Eye injuries
    • Hearing loss
    • Asthma and other breathing problems

    Perhaps most concerning are the long-term effects on health caused by leaf blowers, particularly breathing problems and hearing loss. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists leaf blowers as a common cause of hearing loss in the U.S. The CDC notes that operating a leaf blower for as little as two hours without noise protection can cause permanent damage to the ear.

    Are There Laws Regulating Leaf Blowers?

    Laws to ban gas-powered leaf blowers have been proposed and passed in many cities, including Washington D.C., whose law will go into effect in January 2022. Among the reasons for the ban include the following:

    • Gas-powered leaf blowers pose a public-health danger to hired work crews and others nearby due to noise and emissions.
    • The technology is obsolete and is more polluting than other types of engines now in common use.
    • Battery-powered alternatives are available, which are quieter and less polluting.

    The city of Burlington, Vermont has passed similar legislation, which will go into effect later in 2022. Several towns and cities in New Jersey have enacted bans against gas-powered leaf blowers that are in effect certain months of the year. In addition, a number of communities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey prohibit levels of noise that may endanger the health and safety of humans and animals, however, many of these regulations do not specifically target leaf blowers at the moment.

    What Types of Leaf Blower Safety Features Are Available to Help Prevent Injuries?

    If you choose to use a leaf blower, there are a number of safety features are available to help prevent injuries, including the following:

    • Nonslip handles
    • Bottom-mounted air intake
    • Quick shut-off switch
    • Built-in dust collection kit

    For gas-powered blowers, a wide-mouthed gas tank can help prevent fuel spills. Electric leaf blowers should be double insulated to help prevent electrical shock injuries. Any extension cords used with the leaf blower should be double insulated as well.

    What Else Can I Do to Reduce the Risk of Injury?

    You can also reduce the risk of injury when using a leaf blower by wearing safety goggles, hearing protection, and a dust mask.

    To reduce pollution and noise, use an electric or battery-powered leaf blower. Using a mulching lawn mower also creates less pollution and less harmful noise than a leaf blower. Depending on the amount of leaves on your lawn, you may be able to mow over them and create a mulch that acts as a beneficial groundcover when scattered under bushes or trees.

    However, the best option for preventing serious injury, noise, and pollution is to use a rake and a broom.

    How Common Are Recalls for Leaf Blowers?

    Leaf blower recalls are common. In the last decade alone, the CPSC has recalled numerous models of leaf blowers, equating to millions of pieces of equipment. The dangerous defects found in these products include but are not limited to the following:

    • Backpack leaf blowers that leak fuel and catch fire.
    • Blades of walk-behind leaf blowers that break off and create projectile hazards.
    • Shoulder straps that can be drawn into the fan and expelled at high speeds, causing lacerations.
    • Electric leaf blowers that can easily catch fire and create burn hazards.
    • Fan covers of electric blowers that detach unexpectedly, causing finger lacerations.

    If you receive a notice that your leaf blower has been recalled, stop using it immediately and return it to the dealer where it was purchased. Visit the official site of the CPSC and type in “leaf blower” in the search box to find out a current list of recalled leaf blowers.

    What Should I Do if I am Seriously Injured by a Leaf Blower?

    If you are seriously injured by a leaf blower, seek medical attention, keep all follow-up appointments, and retain your medical records. Keep in mind that your injuries may have happened because the leaf blower was defective. Locate and review the instruction manual for the leaf blower, and if you believe a lack of safety features or other equipment defect may have caused your accident, contact an experienced lawyer.

    A skilled lawyer can review the circumstances of your accident and determine whether you have a valid personal injury claim against the manufacturer, distributor, or reseller of the leaf blower that was involved in your accident.

    Our legal team at Galfand Berger LLP has successfully represented thousands of injured individuals over the years in products liability cases involving all types of defective equipment and machinery, including the following:

    • $650,000 verdict for injuries caused by a defective lawnmower. Our client was operating a riding lawn mower when it rolled backwards down a hill and flipped over. The mower landed blade-first on our client’s dominant hand, amputating three fingers. Our lawyers successfully demonstrated that the mower was defective in design because it had a high center of gravity and lacked an operator’s presence control device which could have stopped the engine when our client lost control, preventing the accident.

    Consumers who use leaf blowers, lawn mowers, and other power tools often blame themselves if they are injured while using these products. However, there are many cases in which the accident could have been prevented if the manufacturer had installed or provided a well-known safety feature.

    Manufacturers and distributors are responsible for ensuring that their products are safe to use. Therefore, a lack of safety features can be considered a defect and the basis for a lawsuit if the defect is found to have caused injury. An experienced products liability lawyer can help injured individuals determine whether they have a valid personal injury claim against a manufacturer or distributor.

    Philadelphia Products Liability Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Are Experienced at Determining the Value of Personal Injury Claims Involving Leaf Blowers

    If you have been seriously injured in an accident involving a faulty leaf blower, contact our Philadelphia products liability lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP today. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We can answer your questions and put your mind at ease. We serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg, from our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania.