Orthopaedic surgeons offer tips for injury-free spring cleaning
ROSEMONT, Ill.—Many people across the country are celebrating the end of a long, cold winter by
de-cluttering their homes and tackling a growing list of other spring cleaning projects around the house.
Whether you’re starting up the lawn mower for the first time this season, climbing a seldom-used ladder, or simply moving furniture to clean those hard-to-reach places, spring cleaning chores create a number of safety hazards that could lead to injury if the proper precautions are not taken.
“Thousands of Americans are injured from cleaning and home improvement projects each year, and it is often because we fail to recognize the dangers of these seemingly simple, low-risk chores,” said orthopaedic trauma surgeon and American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)spokesperson Gregory John Della Rocca, MD, PhD. “By recognizing the risks involved in using items such as ladders, lawn mowers and power tools—and knowing how to use them properly—you can reduce your risk of injury.”
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2013:
- More than 511,000 people were treated in hospitals, doctors’ offices and emergency rooms for injuries related to ladder use;
- Approximately 301,425 people were injured from lawn mower-related injuries;
- Nearly 7,500 were treated for injuries related to power tools; and
- More than 569,000 injuries were related to sofas, couches, davenports, divans or studio couches.
In an effort to prevent these unfortunate injuries, AAOS offers the following recommendations to stay safe as you prepare your home for the change in seasons:
- Always place ladders on a firm, level surface. Never place a ladder on ground or flooring that is uneven, soft, wet or otherwise unstable;
- Make sure your shoelaces are securely tied and your pant legs do not extend underneath your shoes;
- When working on a ladder, leaning too far to one side or reaching too far overhead can make you lose your balance and fall. As a point of reference, your belly button should never go beyond the sides of the ladder;
- Never climb a ladder without someone nearby who is able to spot you;
- If working outside, make sure the ladder is away from electrical wires, tree limbs or any other obstructions; and
- Use a sturdy step ladder instead of a counter-top or furniture, such as a table or chair, when cleaning high, hard to reach areas.
- Keep lawn mowers in good working order. When using a lawn mower for the first time in a season, have it serviced to ensure it is working correctly;
- Be sure the motor is off before inspecting or repairing lawn mower equipment;
- Use a stick or broom handle (not your hands or feet) to remove debris from the blade;
- Wear protective gloves, goggles, closed-toe, sturdy shoes and long pants when using a lawn mower. Never mow barefoot or while wearing sandals or flip flops;
- Do not leave a lawn mower unattended when it is running. If you must walk away from the machine, shut off the engine; and
- When using lawn mowers, be sure that children are not playing in the area being mowed. Never carry a child on your lap when utilizing a ride-around lawn mower or tractor.
- Use proper technique when lifting and carrying to avoid back injuries:
- Separate your feet shoulder-width apart, bend at the knees, tighten your stomach muscles and lift with your leg muscles as you stand up; and
- If an object is too heavy or is an awkward shape, do not try to lift it by yourself.
- Read directions carefully before operating power tools and other equipment;
- Be cautious when using extension cords. To avoid tripping or falling, be sure they are properly grounded and do not drape extension cords across spans of crossing walkways;
- Take frequent breaks while working around the house and drink plenty of fluids before, during and after to prevent dehydration; and
- Always keep a phone within reach in case of accident or injury.
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