Safety in the Spring
Monday, March 21, 2016
The temperatures are warming and the spring yard work season is now upon us. The chore list is never ending - gutters to clean, lawn mowers to power up, windows to wash, remnants of fall leaves to rake, and weeds to pull. With all those tasks, you can count on sore muscles for sure and in some cases, injury. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 35,000 people injured themselves using a step ladder in 2010 and more than 127,000 were injured while operating a lawn mower. And those numbers do not reflect the strained backs, twisted ankles, sunburns, and other common injuries incurred while tending to the lawn, house, and garden beds. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute offer the following tips to keep you healthy and fit as you gear up for the yard work season:
- After hibernating through the winter, make sure you are limber before you tackle the yard. Some gentle stretches include trunk rotations for the back, bringing your knee up to your chest to stretch your lower back and legs, and reaching above your head with hands locked to stretch arms and shoulders.
- Take a short walk around the yard to loosen up the muscles and to survey what needs to be done.
- Dress to Protect
- Use insect repellant and sunscreen with sun protective factor of 15 or higher. Remember hazardous UV exposure is still possible on a cloudy or hazy day.
- Wear gloves and safety glasses to prevent exposure to harmful chemicals such as weed or insect killer.
- Wear a hat with a wide rim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck.
- Always check your clothes and body for ticks after working outdoors.
Lift with Care – Think Before You Lift Heavy Objects
- To avoid back injuries, separate your feet, shoulder-width apart and keep your back upright and bend at the knees while tightening the stomach muscles. Lift with your leg muscles as you stand up.
- Know your limitations. Get help with items that are too big, heavy, or oddly shaped.
- Consider using a cart or wheelbarrow to move items, dirt, or debris.
- When washing windows, painting, cleaning gutters, and trimming trees, always place your ladder on a firm level surface. In addition:
- Never place a ladder on ground or flooring that is uneven, soft, or wet.
- Over-reaching or leaning too far to one side can make you lose balance and fall. Be aware of where you are on the ladder. Your bellybutton should not go beyond the sides of the ladder.
- Have someone spot you when you are on a ladder.
- Go slowly to make sure you touch each step solidly as you ascend or descend the ladder.
- Inside, be sure to use a sturdy step stool instead of the counter or furniture to reach high areas.
Mowing the Lawn
- You can severely injure or kill a child with a lawn mower - in forward or reverse - with the blades engaged, or when objects are hit and thrown by the spinning blades.
- Be sure to wear proper footwear and eyewear as well as ear protection.
- Never give rides. A child may fall off the mower and into the spinning blades. Giving rides may also cause the child to be attracted to the mower, and the child may later approach without being seen.
- Use extreme caution in reverse. Keep alert for anyone who may enter the mowing area. Always look down and behind before and while backing up.
- Know where your kids are. Keep kids away from the mowing area. Have adult supervision to prevent them from approaching the mower before you have finished. Stop mowing if a child approaches the mowing area.
- Read safety instructions and remember to keep the keys to your mower away from children.
Use the Right Tools and Take Breaks
- There will be less strain on your arms and back if you choose tools with larger, padded, or curved handles.
- Wear nonslip work gloves to prevent blisters and to add protection from sticks and thorns.
- When using tools with cords, be sure they are properly grounded and keep them from walkways to avoid tripping.
- Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water.
- Change positions often to avoid repetitive motions that can cause injuries. For example, if you are pulling weeds – pull for 10 minutes, stand, stretch, and change position.
For more information about safety and healthy gardening, go to the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute site at http://opei.org/ or click on the CDC’s site at http://www.cdc.gov/family/gardening/.
Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at email@example.com or 585-335-4327.