Rosemont, Ill – OVERVIEW: Fall is the season for football, changing leaf colors, and – because of yard work – back injuries, tumbles from ladders and lawn mower accidents.
Each year, thousands of Americans are injured cleaning gutters, raking leaves, washing windows and doing other chores. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) urges people to take the proper safety precautions to reduce the number of cleaning-related accidents this season.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
- In 2010, more than 35,500 people injured themselves using a stepladder
- More than 127,000 were injured while operating a lawn mower
AAOS EXPERT ADVICE:
“When it comes to cleaning up around the house, be sure to move and lift heavy or oddly-shaped items properly. Start by bending at the knees and lift using your legs, not from your back,” said Marc T. Galloway, MD, orthopaedic surgeon and AAOS spokesperson. “A lot of injuries tend to occur on ladders too, so if you’re cleaning the gutters or painting a bedroom make sure the ladder is stable, locked in place to avoid falls. And, whatever you do, do not stand on the top rung – this can result in orthopaedic injuries like fractures or breaks.”
FALL CLEAN-UP SAFETY TIPS:
Lifting Heavy Objects
Proper techniques for lifting, carrying and bending should be part of any outdoor or indoor cleaning project 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; don’t try to lift any object by yourself if it is too heavy or an awkward shape.
- Raking can be vigorous exercise. Before you begin, 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, and vary your movement, alternating your leg and arm positions often.
- Keep your vision free of impediment and wear shoes with slip-resistant soles.
- To avoid back injuries, do not overfill leaf bags. Never carry or throw a bag over your shoulder or to the side. The twisting motion places undo stress on your back.
Ladders used for chores – such as washing windows, painting, cleaning gutters and trimming trees – should be placed on a firm, level surface. In addition:
- Never place a ladder on ground or flooring that is uneven, soft or wet.
- Use a sturdy step stool instead of a counter or furniture – such as a chair or the couch – when cleaning high hard to reach areas.
- When working on a ladder, over-reaching or leaning too far to one side can make you lose your balance and fall. Your bellybutton should not go beyond the sides of the ladder. Never climb a ladder without a spotter.
- Use care with extension cords: be sure they are properly grounded. To avoid tripping or falling, do not drape extension cords across spans of crossing walkways.
Mowing the Lawn
- When mowing the lawn, be sure to wear proper footwear and eyewear for protection.
- Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released. Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary – carefully look for others behind you when you do.
- Children should be at least 12-years-old before they operate any lawn mower, and at least 16- years-old for a ride-on mower.
Other Cleaning Tips
- Read product labels for proper use and wear protective clothing and gloves when using chemicals for cleaning. Store all chemicals at the appropriate temperature, which is usually indicated on the package, in a place that is out of reach of both children and pets. Never place chemicals into unmarked containers or containers labeled for a different substance.
- Keep a cell phone within reach in case of accident or injury.