Avoiding the 'rakes and pains' of autumn yard work
As the leaves turn different colors and the weather becomes cooler, many Americans begin to engage in outdoor cleanup. Consider the number of Americans injured in yard work accidents every autumn and you may begin to suspect that "fall" is actually short for "pitfall." Fall, it seems, is becoming the season for back injuries, tumbles from ladders and lawn mower accidents.
"Approximately 42 million people seek emergency room treatment for injuries each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," says Brett Taylor, MD, spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). "Many of these injuries can happen while performing seemingly routine tasks, like autumn yard work."
The AAOS offers a few simple tips to avoid common autumn injuries while in the yard:
Rakes and pains
Brightly colored fallen leaves are one of the charms of autumn, but raking them also sends thousands of people to emergency rooms each year. Raking is vigorous exercise, and you should pay close attention to your arms and back to avoid injury.
To prevent injury from raking, be sure to:
• Warm up for at least 10 minutes with some stretching and light exercise.
• Use a rake that is comfortable for your height and strength. Wear gloves or use rakes with padded handles to prevent blisters.
• Keep your vision free of impediment, like hats or scarves and beware of large rocks, low branches, tree stumps or uneven surfaces.
• Vary your movement, alternating your leg and arm positions often. When picking up leaves, bend at the knees, not the waist.
• Wet leaves can be slippery; wear shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles.
• Do not overfill leaf bags, especially if the leaves are wet. To avoid back injury, you should be able to carry bags comfortably.
• Never throw leaves over your shoulder or to the side. The twisting motion required to do so places undue stress on your back.
Clean up that lawn
It will soon be time to store the mower until spring, but chances are you will mow the grass a few more times before the snow falls. Or, you may use it to collect leaves or and lawn clippings. You may love your lawnmower, but keep in mind it is a powerful tool – one that can cause significant injury. In 2007, more than 225,000 people were injured by power, manual and riding lawn mowers, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
To avoid lawnmower-related injuries be sure to:
• Make sure the engine is off and cool before you begin any maintenance work or refuel your lawnmower.
• Never use your hands or feet to clear debris from under a lawnmower. Use a stick or broom handle instead. Likewise, never touch the blades with your hands or feet, even if the engine is off. The blade can still move and cause serious injury.
• Never remove safety devices, shields or guards on switches.
• Do not leave a lawnmower running unattended.
• Wear protective gear like goggles and gloves, boots and long pants when mowing. Never mow barefoot or in sandals.
• Do not consume alcoholic beverages and mow.
Autumn is a great time to clear out gutters, check roof integrity and wash windows. More than 532,000 people were injured in falls from ladders in 2007, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
To stay safe on a ladder:
• Inspect the ladder for loose screws, hinges or rungs. Clean off accumulated mud, dirt or liquids.
• Make sure all four legs rest on a firm, level surface. Avoid uneven ground or soft, muddy spots.
• Before you climb, be sure all ladder locks and safety braces are engaged.
• Never sit or stand on the top of the ladder or on its pail shelf. These areas were not designed to carry your weight.
• Choose the right ladder for the job. A step stool or utility ladder is good for working at low or medium heights, for jobs such as washing windows. Extension ladders are appropriate for outdoors to reach high places, for when you need to clean gutters or inspect the roof.
• Be aware of your balance. Be careful when moving items off a shelf while you're standing on a ladder. If you have to stretch or lean to reach your work area, it would be safer to climb down and reposition the ladder closer to your work.
For more lawnmower or ladder safety tips, visit the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeon's website at www.orthoinfo.org.
Courtesy of ARA Content