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Dangers of Roof Snow Removal in New England, Has the Media Gone Too Far?
*Charles M. Psoinos, Timothy Emhoff, W. Brian Sweeney, Jennifer Tseng, *Heena Santry
University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA
Heavy Massachusetts snowfall frequently results in media warnings about damaging rooftop accumulation. The association between snow accumulation and roof falls including the burden of resultant injuries are unknown. Design:
Retrospective analysis utilizing UMassMemorial trauma registry, National Weather Service (Northbridge, MA) snowfall and temperature data, and online media content (WHDH.com [television], WBUR.org [radio], Boston.com [print]). Poisson regression to compare snow accumulation and roof falls, descriptive statistics for patient demographics, injuries, and outcomes, and qualitative analysis of media reports on snow accumulation (most recent season).
Level-1 Trauma Center, Worcester, Massachusetts.
All patients (age ≥18) injured due to roof fall, Dec-Feb 2001-2011.
Main Outcome Measures:
Falls/season; injury patterns and disposition; media messages.
45/52 (86.5%) roof falls were non-professionals. All were male and predominantly White (49, 94.2%). Mean age was 44±16.1 years. Mean Injury Severity Score was 14.4 (range 1-45) with 6 (11.1%) >25. Fourteen (26.9%) patients had an Abbreviated Injury Scale >3 in 1+ regions. Mean length of stay was 5.1±5.6 days. There were no deaths but 14 (27%) suffered serious disability precluding discharge home (9 rehab; 5 skilled nursing). Falls tended to increase with increasing snow accumulation but this did not achieve statistical significance (Poisson p=0.098). No association was found between falls and days <32°F. We identified 54 examples in the media on the dangers of rooftop snow accumulation in 2010-2011. Twenty urged “clearing,” eight suggested caution or professional help, and only four described the dangers of roof snow removal.
While there was no association between snow accumulation and roof falls, the abundance of media messages to clear snow that can result in significant disability is worrisome. Public awareness should be increased.
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