Avoiding Spring Cleaning Injuries

Warmer weather is right around the corner (we hope). It’s time to climb out of hibernation and get to spring cleaninglawn mower and tidying up our yards. This time of year also sees an increase in visits to the ER due to all of this cleaning and tidying. Most spring cleaning injuries include shoulder, neck and back problems, and general exhaustion and aches and pains. Understandably, many are gung ho to get their projects started. That is part of the problem. We tend to lead more sedentary lives during winter, and should ease into our spring cleaning and gardening rather than jumping in full force. Here are some ways to stay healthy while spring cleaning and working in the yard.

Warm Up

Get your muscles ready for the hard work in which you’re about to engage. Walk or stretch to get prepare your body for the cleaning work out.

Lawn Mowers

Sure, your lawn mower turns your overgrown mess into a well maintained yard, but it also has the potential to injury and maim.

  1. After sitting around idle for a few months, your mower will need a little maintenance. Tuning it up to get it back in working order will lower the risk of injury.
  2. Never reach under the mower deck. While this may seem obvious, it’s the very reason for many ER visits. Hands and feet can be severely injured after encountering a spinning mower blade. If needing to dislodge clogged grass, turn off the mower first.
  3. Keep children away from lawn powers. It’s not a toy. One little slip can cause severe injury or death. This is especially true with riding mowers
  4. When mowing wet grass, be cautious. People and mowers can slip on wet grass. Be extra cautious if mowing wet grass on a hill.
  5. Watch for objects that can become projectiles. Rocks, branches, toys can all be sent flying at great speed if hit by a mower blade. Risks include injuries to eyes and skin.
  6. Wear protection. Mowing presents a number of risks to the eyes. Also, it’s best to wear long sleeves and pants to protect as much skin as possible.

 

Falls

Ladders are used frequently during spring cleaning and yard maintenance. We need to reach those high spots to clean gutters, trim trees, dust door jambs and paint. Stay safe while using it.

  1. A ladder should be secured on a firm surface and against a solid wall. Falls can easily occur from ladders shifting or sinking from its original position.
  2. It’s best to have another person secure the ladder while you climb. Focus is crucial for the person spotting you on the ladder. Have them put phones and other distractions away while helping.
  3. Don’t reach too far when on a ladder. This can cause it to slip or fall. Keep your body vertical and in line with the ladder.
  4. If needed, dry the ladder and the bottom of your shoes to avoid slipping. If you’re using your ladder in wet weather, have a towel handy and continuing drying when needed.
  5. Clear or avoid potential hazards if possible. Railings, bushes, rocks and sidewalks are all probable dangers. It’s much softer landing on grass or dirt than a fence.

Tools

Many people, men especially, love using power tools for projects and yard maintenance. More power, right? Unfortunately, a variety of tools also mean a variety and array of potential injuries.

  1. Like with the mower, make sure your tools are in good working order. With electric tools, make sure the cord is intact and has no frays, exposed wires, or breaks.
  2. Know how to use the tool. Inexperience with tools is a common source of injuries.
  3. Do NOT remove or bypass safety features. They are there for a reason – your welfare.
  4. Never let children use power equipment or sharp tools.

Burning Brush

If you burn your brush, make sure to follow this advice to keep your small fire to turning into an inferno.

  1. Keep your burn pile away from other flammable objects such as hanging limbs of trees, bushes, or porches.
  2. Heed the burn ban. Ensure burning is safe by contacting your public works or fire department. They should know if it’s too dry or windy to have an outdoor fire.
  3. Poison ivy/oak/sumac are poisonous, and inhaling them can be very dangerous. Keep them out of your burn pile.
  4. Always have a plan to put the fire out just in case it gets out of control. Keep a hose or fire extinguisher nearby. Also keep a phone handy in the case it DOES get out of control and you need to phone 911.
  5. Never use an accelerant like lighter fluid or gasoline. Oxygen plus accelerant can lead to a disastrous and volatile situation.

Back Injuries

Hard manual labor can be demanding on your back. Be mindful to pain and take the following advice.

  1. Use proper lifting techniques. Improper lifting techniques are a common cause of back pain and injury. Learn how to lift the right way.
    1. Bend at the knees, rather than the waist
    2. Keep your back straight.
    3. Use your legs to do the lifting work, rather than your back.
    4. Hold heavy items close to your body, and avoid twisting while holding a heavy item.
    5. If you need to place an object to the side, turn your whole body to the side.
    6. If you need to lift a very large, heavy item or move furniture, have someone help you; do not attempt to move these items on your own.
  2. Avoid bending and reaching whenever possible. Try to do as much as you can while standing upright. For spring cleaningexample, mop as much as you can rather than scrubbing on hands and knees. Use a mop or a similar device to clean the tub and shower. If you need to reach high-up areas, use a step stool or ladder; do not strain to reach it. Limiting the amount of bending and reaching you do will reduce the risk of straining back muscles.
  3. Keep the items you need nearby. When items are within arm’s reach you avoid having to bend or reach to grab them. The less you need to twist, reach, bend, or strain your back, the better.
  4. Don’t try to do everything in one day. Do the work in chunks, room to room, focusing on a couple areas per day. Take breaks and stay hydrated.

Stay unscathed while doing your spring cleaning this year. Many trips to the ER are preventable. Take your time and make the effort to keep your cleaning and yard work as safe as possible.

Halloween Safety Part One: Halloween Costumes

As a personal injury attorney, I deal with accidents and injuries on a daily basis. Did you know Halloween is one of Halloween costumesthe holidays that produce the most ER visits?  Injuries caused by everything from glow sticks to car accidents land thousands of children in emergency rooms nationwide on Halloween.  Costumes play a part in many of these injuries. Here are some important tips regarding Halloween costumes:

  • Choose face paint over a mask if possible. Use non-toxic products and do a patch test before use to ensure there won’t be an allergic reaction. Remove all makeup before bed time.
  • If wearing a mask, eye holes should be large enough for good peripheral vision.  Also make sure hats, wigs, etc., fit well to avoid sliding over the eyes and obstructing vision.
  • The brighter the costume, the better. If your child will be trick-or-treating outdoors after dark, it’s also a good idea to either add reflector tape to their costume and/or treat bag or for them to wear a glow stick, reflector, flashing lights or jewelry or to carry a flashlight so they’re more noticeable to cars. Note: liquid in glow sticks can be toxic, make sure small children keep them out of their mouths to prevent accidental poisoning.
  • Costumes should be easy to move in, loose enough to fit warm clothing underneath, and short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
  • All parts of a costume should be fireproof or treated with fire retardant.
  • Avoid over-sized shoes and high heels. Shoes should be comfortable and slip-resistant to avoid falls.
  • Limit props — such as wands, swords and knives — as they might pose safety hazards. If props are used, smooth down all sharp points to avoid injury. Soft and flexible materials are best for these types of props.

Come back Friday to read about keeping children safe on the streets on Halloween night.

10 Common Causes of Workplace Injuries

Many of the cases I handle result from injuries sustained at the workplace. Much of the time, work injuries are Work injury
preventable. Every year, Liberty Mutual puts out a Workplace Safety Index which outlines the top ten causes of serious, nonfatal workplace injuries. Here is what they came up with:

2016 Workplace Safety Index (based on 2013 injury data)

 

10. Repetitive Motion Injuries – Engaging in some type of repetitive motion during the day, such as typing or styling hair can put pressure on the median nerve and cause muscle and tendon strain. This can result in numbness and pain in the fingers, wrists and hands, back pain, vision problems, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Using ergonomic equipment can help decrease instances of this kind of injury.

9. Struck Against Object or Equipment — When a person accidentally runs into a physical object such as a wall, door, or cabinet for example, injury may occur. Head, knee, neck, and foot injuries are most common with this type of incident. Keeping work areas free of hazards and employees being aware of their surroundings can help prevent these types of injuries.

8. Machine Entanglement – Entanglement usually occurs when heavy equipment and machinery are operated. If safety measures are not properly exercised when using heavy machinery, clothing, shoes, fingers and hair could become trapped. Protective equipment and again, employee diligence can help avoid these types of injuries.

7. Slip or Trip Without Fall — Break rooms and kitchens are common places for slips to occur because of the number of liquids that get splashed and spilled then are not cleaned up. Mopped and waxed linoleum, hardwood or tile floors are especially perilous. Footwear without nonskid soles may also contribute to slipping at work.

Obstacles in high traffic areas, extension cords not properly taped down and loose carpeting can all contribute to tripping up employees. Hallways without proper lighting and stairways are hazardous as well.

6. Roadway Incidents Involving Motorized Land Vehicles – This is not limited to car accidents, though vehicle collisions do occur when driving is part of an employee’s job. These types of incidents also include pedestrian workers struck by a vehicle in the work zone. Drivers should be mindful when passing through road construction sites. Keeping speed low and watching for road workers may prevent an avoidable injury or death.

5. Reaction Injuries and Other Exertions– Much of the time this happens while slipping or tripping. For instance, if an individual slips or trips, jerking actions as they try to regain their balance may cause pulled muscles or broken bones. Sometimes it’s just better to fall. Exertions include bending, crawling, reaching, twisting, climbing, stepping, kneeling, sitting, standing or walking.

4. Struck by Object – Equipment and furniture not properly anchored, or boxes inadequately stored on shelves can be falling hazards. If they become dislodged or loose, they could topple down on an employee and cause serious injuries. Head injuries are the most common result of this type of occurrence. Personal protection gear, such as a hard hat, may keep workers safe from harm.slippery when wet

3. Falls to Lower Level – If a worker falls from an elevated area, like a roof or ladder, serious injury may occur. Falls to lower levels can also include slipping or falling due to faulty equipment or gear. Always inspect equipment for defects and ensure it is properly assembled. Also make a habit of wearing all personal protection gear required for a job.

2. Falls on Same Level – This refers to slipping and tripping that results in a fall. Icy walkways into work and wet floors can result in slipping. Electrical cords, area rugs, and other hazards may cause an employee to trip. Common falling injuries include muscle injury, sprained or torn ligaments, bone fractures, and head injuries.

1. Overexertion – The leading cause of workplace injuries consist of actions that lead to fatigue such as lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying, and throwing. Mental and physical exhaustion can occur when someone pushes themselves too hard. This leads to impaired judgment and slower reflexes. Those deficiencies can be lethal if operating heavy equipment, industrial machinery, or motor vehicles.

Workplace injuries put employees at risk of a visit to the ER or even death. Other considerations for employers are higher insurance rates, a decrease in worker productivity and diminished employee morale. For the worker it could mean a loss of wages, medical bills, change in routine and/or lifestyle, and stress on family and friendships.

Employers and laborers alike should make safety at work a top priority. Business owners should provide competent training and education to ensure the proficiency of their employees. They should devote time and money to ensure proper maintenance of all equipment and gear, to keeping the workplace free of hazards, and to confirm their employees are following protocol. Workers should check their own equipment for defects, make certain they’re using the right gear for the right job, be cognizant of their surroundings, and err on the side of caution.

What is your take on workplace injuries? Should the responsibility fall more on the shoulder of the employer or worker? Or should it be an even split.

Stay safe on amusement park rides

Amusement park rides are again in the news after three girls fell 30 feet from a Ferris wheel in Greeneville, Tennesseferris wheel ridese.

Apparently a mechanical problem was to blame. Many fairs and carnivals are already in full swing. Our own Western Washington Fair will be upon us within weeks. Visitors should be able to enjoy their time at these fun filled events free from worry. Unfortunately, injuries are suffered on amusement park rides all the time, so not so serious, some fatal.

Most injuries sustained at amusement parks include:
  • Head and neck problems;
  • Injuries to the face, arms and legs and;
  • Soft-tissue injuries — damage to ligaments, muscles and tendons.

Luckily serious and fatal injuries make up a very small percentage according to a study done by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Common causes for these injuries consist of:
  • Falling in, on, off or against a ride.
  • Being hit by something while riding, or hitting body on a ride.
  • Catching a body part or clothing in a ride.
  • Injuries incurred getting off or on a ride.
  • Being struck by a moving or stationary ride.
So how do we keep ourselves and children safe at amusement parks, carnivals and fairs?
  • Always obey ride restrictions. If a person is too short, too young, too heavy or light, it’s best to err on the side of caution and stay off the ride.
  • Follow instructions regarding seating order, loading instructions, etc.
  • Double check safety gear. Ensure straps, belts, bars are in place and latched properly. If not, secure them or if you can’t, get the operators attention.
  • Follow the rules. Stay out of fenced off areas. If something is dropped from a ride, do not attempt to retrieve it, instead, inform the ride operator.
  • Keep hands and feet inside the ride at all times and ensure children do the same.
  • Ride with your child.
  • If a child cannot be trusted to follow the rules for some reason, don’t let them ride.

roller coaster ridesSometimes injuries that occur at amusement parks, etc., are simply accidents, and there is no one to blame. However, many injuries, whether a trip over an electrical cord or a fall from a ride, could be the responsibility of the property owner, ride manufacturer or operator. Those in charge need to keep the property, attractions, and rides properly maintained and safe. Otherwise, they could face a negligence, slip and fall, product liability, or wrongful death lawsuit.

If injured at an amusement park or local fair and you think it’s due to owner, operator, and/or manufacturer negligence of, contact me. I’ve dealt with amusement park rides and have decades of experience with trip and falls, wrongful death, and premises and product liability claims. You may not have a personal injury claim on your hands, but it’s always a good idea to consult a seasoned attorney to discuss your rights.

Consultations are always free. You can reach me by phone (888) 809-9494, email or by filling out my online form.

Pokemon Go Injuries

The Game

The game, Pokemon Go began just days ago, and already injuries are being reported due to game play. If you are unfamiliar with the game, let me offer a simple explanation. It is what is called an “augmented reality” game that allows players to capture Pokemon (fictional creatures based on a Japanese franchise, i.e. card game, video game, etc.) in the real world. The creatures appear through the camera of player’s smart phones as they walk through their community.

The game, created by Niantic and Pokemon, even warns users to pay attention to their surroundings and play safely, serving as a type of waiver, but many are not heeding the warning, resulting in the injuries.

The Injuries

There have been a number of slip, trip and falls because those playing the game were not watching where they are walking; they were staring at their cell phone screens. Some have fallen into ditches and holes, and ran into cinderblocks.

Players have also taken spills on skateboards and walked into walls, street signs, and the street itself while glued to their smart phones.

Some gamers are even playing while driving, which we all know is an accident waiting to happen. Thankfully, the game will not work if you are traveling at more than 20 miles per hour. It is meant to be played while walking, not driving.

This is not just a problem for juveniles, many of the injured are in their 20s and 30s.

The plus side

The game does come with some positives. Since it is based on walking, people are getting exercise while playing. Players are interacting with each other when they wind up at the same “Pokemon” site. Pokemon are found in parks and landmarks as well as living rooms and kitchens, so players are spending time in outdoor locations they may not have otherwise visited.

If you’re playing:
  • Don’t drive and play. It’s the same as texting while driving, which is against the law and can be dangerous or even deadly.
  • If walking, bicycling, or skateboarding, keep your eyes focused on the sidewalk/road. If you find a Pokemon “egg,” stop to collect your creature. The game is not worth an ankle, knee, elbow or head injury.

Play smart, play safe, and have some injury free fun.

Keeping the workplace safe

Safety measures at work are vital to keeping employees protected from harm. All workplaces, from small offices to large factories, can be vulnerable to worker injuries. Ensuringhard hat
hazards are cleared promptly, machinery is operating properly, and that workers keep themselves healthy and safe is an ongoing process and the responsibility of all employees, from top level to new hires.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 Census:
  • More than 13 workers per day died while doing their jobs.
  • 4,454 of those were men and 367 were women.
  • The majority were between 45 and 64 years old
  • The most affected industries were:
  • Construction, (899 deaths)
  • Transportation and warehousing (766)
  • Agriculture (584)
  • Government (435)
  • Professional and business services (425) and
  • Manufacturing (349)
Most of them, 1,984 died in transportation incidents, followed by:
  • Slips, trips and falls: 818
  • Injuries by people or animals: 765 (409 of these were homicides)
  • Contact with objects and equipment: 715
  • Exposure to harmful substances or environments: 390
  • Other events or exposures: 149
How can workplaces stay safe? Here are some ideas:

 

Preventing trips, slips and falls:
  • Report and/or clean up spills and leaks.Work injury
  • Keep hallways, aisles and exits clear of obstacles.
  • Install mirrors and warning signs to help with blind spots.
  • Replace dilapidated, torn or damaged flooring.
  • Anti-slip flooring is available and could be used in areas that can’t always be cleaned immediately.
  • Don’t be complacent, check work areas for protruding nails, holes or loose boards.
  • Make sure cords, wires, etc., are not out where people could stumble over them. Or cover them with a mat or tape to keep them from being a tripping hazard.
Eradicating fire hazards:
  • Keep combustible materials in a safe storage area unless they are needed for a job. Then only keep amounts needed in the work area.
  • Store quick-burning, flammable materials in designated locations away from ignition sources.
  • Change clothes if they are contaminated with flammable materials.
  • Keep passageways and fire doors free of obstructions and stairwell doors closed. Do not use the stairwell for storage.
  • Automatic sprinklers, fire extinguishers and sprinkler controls need at least an 18 inch clearance, thought 24 to 36 inches is recommended. Also, there needs to be a 3 foot clearance between any stacked materials and the ceiling. If stock is piled more than 15 feet high, double the clearance size.
  • Always report hazards in electrical areas and ensure work orders are turned in for repair.
Avoid falling objects:
  • Defenses such as a toe board, net, etc., can help prevent objects from falling and injuring workers.
  • Ensure any stacked materials are straight up and down to keep them from falling or toppling over.
  • Place heavy objects on lower shelves.
  • Keep items away from desk and table edges.
  • Don’t stack objects in workers walking paths.
Use safety gear when needed:
  • Know what equipment, tools and gear is essential to stay safe at work.safety goggles
  • Ensure knowledge of how to properly put on, adjust, wear, remove and store safety gear.
  • Understand how to properly use equipment and tools.
  • Types of safety gear include, but are not limited to:
    • Eye and ear protection
    • Respirators
    • Head protection
    • Foot and leg protection
  • Do Maintenance checks on tools and equipment regularly.
  • Immediately repair or properly remove any equipment that is broken or damaged.

It’s up to employers and workers alike to maintain a safe workplace. Most workplace injuries and deaths are preventable. Working together and being diligent, responsible and knowledgeable can and will save lives. You can find safety training courses at The National Safety Council. Need more info? The best resource is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

 

 

 

 

Injured at a fair or amusement park? Know who to sue.

amusement park rideWhen attending an amusement park, carnival or fair, visitors should expect to have a fun, good time. Sustaining an injury should be the last thing on their mind. With the Washington State Fair in full swing, it’s good to remind attendees about liability regarding injuries that occur on the event or park property.

Sometimes injuries that take place at these locations are simply accidents, and there is no one to blame. However, Six Flags or county fair, whether it’s a trip over an electrical cord or a fall from a ride, the property owner, ride manufacturer or operator might be liable. Those in charge need to keep the property, attractions and rides properly maintained and safe. Otherwise, they could face a negligence, slip and fall, product liability, or wrongful death lawsuit.

The rides at traveling carnivals and fairs are built and taken down regularly, leaving them susceptible to being incorrectly constructed, which can result in injury. The constant set up and break down can also wear on machinery, which could result in malfunctions.

If injured at an amusement park or local fair and you thinks it’s because of the negligence of owners, operators, and/or employees, give me, John Messina, a call. I have decades of experience with trip and falls, wrongful death, and premises and product liability claims. You may not have a personal injury case on your hands, but it’s best to confer with a seasoned attorney to check. I can advise you concerning your rights and potential legal claim.

Consultations are always free. You can reach me by phone (888) 809-9494, email or by filling out my online form.