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.

‘Tis the season for holiday decorating injuries

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but also ‘tis the season for emergency room visits to surge due to holiday decorating decorating injuriesinjuries. More than 15,000 individuals “decking the halls” find themselves in the ER during the month of December according to estimates by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a number that has steadily risen since 2009.

The most common injuries this time of year are falls, followed by lacerations and back strains. Fires are also a dangerous and deadly hazard. The U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System annual survey show that in 2009-2013, Christmas trees were the item first ignited in an estimated average of 210 reported home structure fires per year. These fires resulted in an annual average of 7 deaths, 19 injuries, and $17.5 million in direct property damage.

To see how fast a Christmas tree can ignite, watch this video.

Stay out of the ER, and better yet, the grave this holiday season by abiding by these safety tips while decorating:

Ladders

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries offer the following tips when using a ladder to decorate:

  1. Carefully inspect the ladder for defects, checking for cracks, corrosion and that bolts and rivets are secure.
  2. Make sure the ladder’s feet work properly and have slip-resistant pads.
  3. Use a fiberglass ladder if there is any chance of contact with electricity.
  4. When setting the ladder, look for a safe location with firm, level footing and rigid support for the top of the ladder. Be sure to set it at an angle per the manufacturer’s guidance.
  5. When climbing off a ladder at an upper level, make sure the ladder extends three feet above the landing.
  6. When climbing the ladder, use three points of contact – keep one hand and both feet or both hands and one foot in contact with the ladder always.
  7. Never carry any load that could cause you to lose balance.
  8. Never stand on top of a ladder.
  9. Don’t pull, lean, stretch or make sudden moves on a ladder that could cause it to tip over.
  10. Avoid setting the ladder near exit doors, near the path of pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
Trees and Decorations
  1. If you buy a live tree, check for freshness. The fresher the tree the better and longer it will last. Make sure it is green, the needles are hard to pull from the branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  2. Place your tree away from heat sources. Trees should not be placed near fireplaces, vents, or radiators. Monitor water levels daily, and keep the tree stand filled with water.
  3. If you buy an artificial tree, make sure it’s labeled “Fire Resistant.” It’s doesn’t mean the tree will not catch fire, but it does mean the tree is more resistant to catching fire.
  4. Decorating with small children? Avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to reach for and swallow them.
Candles
  1. Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the menorah firehouse.
  2. Keep candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface. Place candles where kids and pets cannot reach them or knock them over. Lighted candles should be placed away from items that can catch fire, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains and furniture.
  3. Consider using flameless LED candles especially if small children and/or pets live in the home.
Lights
  1. Only use lights that have been tested by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. On decorative lights available in stores, UL’s red holographic label signifies that the product meets safety requirements for indoor and outdoor use. UL’s green holographic label signifies that the product meets requirements for indoor use only.
  2. Check each set of lights. Examine new and old lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets, and do not use electric lights on a metallic tree.
  3. Check each extension cord. Make sure extension cords are rated for the intended use and are in good condition.
A few more tips to prevent holiday decorating injuries:
  1. Ensure all fire detectors are in good working order.
  2. Don’t overload outlets, inside or out.
  3. Keep pets away from trees, lights and cords.
  4. Don’t drink and decorate.

Don’t let your holiday become hazardous. Add safety to your list of  traditions and stay out of the ER this season.

Observe National Safety Month

NSM-Logo-2016June is National Safety Month, it’s purpose is to reduce the leading causes of injury and death at work, on the roads and in our homes and communities.  “Safety” is a broad subject, but it’s an important one. A good way to start being safe is to be prepared for any type of emergency that may occur. There are a number of ways to be prepared.

Take a first aid/CPR training course. Every second counts. In those few minutes it takes paramedics to arrive, someone’s life could be saved by initiating first aid or CPR.

Keep an emergency preparedness kit. Keep one in at home and in the car.  Include items such as non-perishable food, water, necessary medications, a battery powered radio, blankets, a flashlight and a first aid kit. The Red Cross has posted list of items that should be in an emergency preparedness kit. For a list of items to keep in a first aid kit,visit this article at Safety and Health Magazine.

Make emergency plans. A fire plan should include checking smoke detectors to ensure their batteries are good and they’re working properly. Mark locations of windows and doors on a diagram and plan two escape routes from every room. Plan a post escape gathering place and a designated phone number to call in case the family is separated. doctor-1015624_1920If older family members, young children and pets are in the home, ensure there’s a plan to help them escape as well.

Have a list of numbers. Keep phone numbers for doctors, fire, police, poison control, 9-1-1 etc. in a handy location and make sure everyone knows where to find it.

Write down important information. Keep a list of family  medical conditions, medications being taken and allergies both at home, in the car, at work, and even in school backpacks.

The elderly and young are more vulnerable when it comes to safety risks, but we continue to be susceptible our entire  lives. Here is an infographic from the National Safety Council displaying some of the risks we might face throughout life and ways in which to prevent injuries.

Visit the National Safety Council and find out what risks your susceptible to according to your sex, age and state of residence.

I’ll be touching on the subject of safety all month. Visit again to read about driving safety, work safety, fireworks safety and keeping our children safe.

Until then…

4 holiday decorating injuries and how to avoid them

christmas decoratingIt may be the season to be jolly, but it’s also the season for emergency room visits caused by holiday decorating accidents. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that there are about 250 injuries a day as a result of “decking the halls.” Falls are the most common decorating disaster accounting for 34 percent, with lacerations and back injuries coming in second and third at 11 and 10 percent respectively.

Fires related to Christmas trees and candles also account for a number of injuries and death every year. Between 2009 and 2011, the two causes of fires accounted for 80 deaths, 700 injuries and $324 million in property loss.

Stay out of the ER, and better yet, the cemetery by keeping these tips in mind while decorating this holiday season.

  1. FallingHanging christmas lights
    1. Heed the warning labels. Visit CPSC’s blog dedicated to ladder safety for tips on how to prevent ladder falls this season.
  2. Fire
    1. Tree
      1. Check your tree for freshness. The fresher the tree the better and longer it will last. Make sure it is green, the needles are hard to pull from the branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
      2. Place your tree away from heat sources. Trees should not be placed near fireplaces, vents, or radiators. Monitor water levels daily, and keep the tree stand filled with water.
      3. If you buy an artificial tree make sure it’s labeled “Fire Resistant.” It’s doesn’t mean the tree will not catch fire, but it does mean the tree is more resistant to catching fire. The following is a video showing how fast a Christmas tree can go up in flames and spread.
    2. Candles
      1. Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the house.
      2. Keep candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface. Place candles where kids and pets cannot reach them or knock them over. Lighted candles should be placed away from items that can catch fire, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains and furniture.
    3. Lights
      1. Only use lights that have been tested by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. On decorative lights available in stores, UL’s red holographic label signifies that the product meets safety requirements for indoor and outdoor use. UL’s green holographic label signifies that the product meets requirements for indoor use only.
      2. Check each set of lights. Examine new and old lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets, and do not use electric lights on a metallic tree.
      3. Check each extension cord. Make sure extension cords are rated for the intended use and are in good condition.
      4. Check outdoor lights for labels. Look for labels indicating that the lights have been certified for outdoor use, and only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.
    4. Fireplaces
      1. Do not burn wrapping papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result from burning wrapping papers because wrappings can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
  3. Lacerationsbroken christmas ornament
    1. Decorating with small children? Avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations.
    2. Many of the lacerations during the holidays are a result of opening presents, as silly as that sounds. Enjoy unwrapping slowly, instead of tearing into packages.
  4. Back injury
    1. Use proper lifting methods. Whether you are lifting boxes of ornaments or the tree itself, use proper lifting methods to avoid back strain.
    2. Don’t over reach. Move the ladder instead of reaching too far over to get that light string up or ornament on the tree. Keep your body centered on the ladder and maintain balance to decrease spinal pressure.
    3. Take your time. Don’t rush while decorating or do any quick twist, turns, or long reaches that can cause strain on your back
    4. Purchase a light weight ladder. Dragging a heavy ladder through the house and outside can cause back problems.
    5. Don’t overdo it. If decorations are too heavy, find someone to help.

Another thing to keep in mind when you’re hanging your “boughs of holly,” is to ensure that your decorations aren’t endangering  guests. No one wants their holiday visitors hurt on their property and subsequently filing a premises liability claim.

What is premises liability? Basically, premises liability law refers to the legal principles that hold landowners and tenants responsible when someone enters onto their property and gets hurt due to a dangerous condition.

There’s always the chance of getting injured on someone’s property, but additional hazardous circumstances develop during the holiday season. A few ways you can keep your guests from injury during the holidays include:

  • If it snows, you’ll want to shovel any snow or ice from your walkway and driveway.
  • If you are using illuminated displays, keep wires, cables and extension cords out of walking paths.
  • Stabilize decorations that are displayed on rooftops, in trees, or otherwise above ground so they don’t come loose and fall.

Beautiful Christmas light display.Don’t be a Griswald.

Keep yourself, your family and friends safe and out of the emergency room this holiday season by using your

head and taking precautionary measures. Also, if you’re injured by a decorating disaster at no fault of your own, contact a personal injury attorney to discuss your rights.

Happy decorating.

Ways to Avoid Fall Cleanup Injuries

FallFall cleaning injures send millions to the ER every year.

 

The leaves change color, the sun sets earlier, and weather becomes cold and wet. Fall is upon us and with it comes a variety of yard and home maintenance and cleaning injuries. They may seem like mundane tasks, but injuries from hauling heavy loads or improperly using a lawn mower send millions of people to the ER every year. Tis the season to be careful when doing your after summer cleanup.

The most common fall cleanup injuries include muscle strains, back injuries, repetitive motion injuries, tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and injury accidents.

Here is some advice on how to stay injury free while working in the yard from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons:

Raking

  • As raking can be vigorous work, warm up for ten minutes first with stretching and light exercise.
  • Ensure your rake is comfortable for you height and strength. Buy one with padded handles, or wear gloves to prevent blisters. Also ensure handles are ergonomic.
  • Keep you line of sight unobstructed from clothing such as hats and scarves.
  • Beware large rocks, low branches, tree stumps and uneven surfaces to avoid tripping.
  • Alternate leg and arm position often to avoid overuse of certain muscles.
  • Bend at the knees when picking up leaves to avoid back injury.
  • Wear slip resistant footwear, as leaves, especially when wet, can be slippery.
  • Don’t overfill leaf bags with too much weight, especially when leaves are wet. They should be carried comfortably without causing back strain.
  • Don’t throw leaves over your shoulder or to the side. Twisting the body in that way causes stress on the back.

Lawn Mower

  • Ensure the engine is off and cool before maintenance work or refueling your mower.
  • Don’t use hands or feet to clear debris from beneath the mower. Use a stick or broom. Also, don’t touch the blades with hands or feet, even if the engine is off. The blade can still move and cause injury.
  • Do not remove safety devices, shields or guards on switches.
  • Never leave the mower running unattended.
  • Never mow barefoot or in sandals.
  • Do not drink and mow.
  • When doing work on your mower, always wear protective goggles.
  • Buy 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.
  • Children should be at least 12-years-old before they operate any lawn mower, and 16 and older to use a riding mower.

Ladders               

  • Every time a ladder is used it should be inspected for loose screws, hinges and rungs. Clean mud, dirt, ladder fallliquids, or anything else off of ladder to avoid slipping.
  • Rest all for legs on a firm, level surface. Uneven ground, or soft, muddy spots can cause the ladder to tilt.
  • Before climbing, be sure all ladder locks and safety braces are engaged.
  • Do not sit or stand on the ladder’s pail shelf (very top). It’s not meant to hold a person’s weight.
  • Choose the right ladder for the job. Step or utility ladders for low to medium heights, extension ladder for high to reach places.
  • If you need to stretch or lean while on a ladder, it’s best to climb down and reposition. Leaning or stretching could result in the ladder tipping over.

 

A few more tips:

  • When you’re done with that rigorous outdoor work, stretch again to relieve any built up muscle tension.
  • Taking water breaks while working will ensure you stay hydrated.
  • Wearing long sleeves and pants will protect skin from scratches, sunburn and bug bites.
  • When working with any motorized equipment, wear safety goggles to protect eyes from dirt, debris, and any mechanical equipment breakage.
  • Wear industrial earmuffs when working with loud equipment to protect hearing.
  • Use gloves and a face mask when handling chemicals such as fertilizer or insect poison and be sure to keep these toxic chemicals away from children and pets.

Don’t let an outdoor chore make you sore. Follow this advice and keep free from fall cleanup injuries.