Warmer weather is right around the corner (we hope). It’s time to climb out of hibernation and get to spring cleaning 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.
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.
Sure, your lawn mower turns your overgrown mess into a well maintained yard, but it also has the potential to injury and maim.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- When mowing wet grass, be cautious. People and mowers can slip on wet grass. Be extra cautious if mowing wet grass on a hill.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- Know how to use the tool. Inexperience with tools is a common source of injuries.
- Do NOT remove or bypass safety features. They are there for a reason – your welfare.
- Never let children use power equipment or sharp tools.
If you burn your brush, make sure to follow this advice to keep your small fire to turning into an inferno.
- Keep your burn pile away from other flammable objects such as hanging limbs of trees, bushes, or porches.
- 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.
- Poison ivy/oak/sumac are poisonous, and inhaling them can be very dangerous. Keep them out of your burn pile.
- 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.
- Never use an accelerant like lighter fluid or gasoline. Oxygen plus accelerant can lead to a disastrous and volatile situation.
Hard manual labor can be demanding on your back. Be mindful to pain and take the following advice.
- Use proper lifting techniques. Improper lifting techniques are a common cause of back pain and injury. Learn how to lift the right way.
- Bend at the knees, rather than the waist
- Keep your back straight.
- Use your legs to do the lifting work, rather than your back.
- Hold heavy items close to your body, and avoid twisting while holding a heavy item.
- If you need to place an object to the side, turn your whole body to the side.
- 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.
- Avoid bending and reaching whenever possible. Try to do as much as you can while standing upright. For example, 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.
- 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.
- 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.