Stay injury free while working outside
It happens in an instant, like all accidents do. One moment you’re happily mowing the lawn in your backyard and the next thing you know, you’re in the emergency room getting stitches – or worse. You may think of work as the place you’re most likely to get injured, but your home is actually much more hazardous to your health. In fact, 18,000 Americans die from injuries sustained around the house and home injuries account for 21 million medical visits every year. When summertime is in full swing, many of these injuries happen while people are working in their yards.
“Many of the most common tools we use in the yard, such as lawn mowers, saws and hedge clippers, can cause life-changing injuries,” explained Dr. Luke Sullivan, DO, an emergency medicine physician at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre. “If you’ve used a tool hundreds of times, your familiarity with it can make you less likely to follow the necessary safety measures that prevent injuries.”
How to prevent common injuries
The equipment you use to keep your yard looking great is the biggest hazard you’ll face. Here’s how to protect yourself:
• Inspect your equipment: Before starting your mower, saw or weed whacker, check to make sure the fuel lines and electrical connections are secure. Also look for loose bolts or parts that could fly off once the engine is started.
• Wear proper safety gear: Use eyewear and gloves when working in the yard, especially when trimming bushes, to avoid eye injuries from clippings and sticks.
• Never fuel or touch a hot engine: Fuel up before you start the job. If you run out of fuel in the middle of your work, let the engine cool before refueling. Hot engine parts can ignite gasoline. Engine parts on lawnmowers and other yard equipment get hot and can cause severe burns. Never touch parts of a lawnmower you’ve used recently.
“The exhaust and muffler on lawnmowers get hot enough to cause third-degree burns,” said Dr. Sullivan. “These types of burns can damage all layers of your skin, and may affect muscle and bone, too.”
• Keep kids away from equipment: More than 4,800 children are injured by lawnmowers every year. No child under age 16 should operate a riding mower, and no child under age 14 should operate a push mower.
“Passengers on riding mowers and bystanders are more likely to be injured than the person doing the mowing,” said Dr. Sullivan. “Keep your kids at a safe distance while you’re mowing and never let them ride with you.”
• Scan your lawn for debris: Before starting work, walk around your yard to look for rocks, sticks, toys and gravel. These objects can become projectiles when hit by a spinning blade.
• Use a broom handle: If a blade on your clipper or discharge chute on your lawnmower gets jammed, never use your hand to clear away obstructions. More than 35 percent of lawnmower and yard injuries happen to the hands and fingers.
• Don’t work in the rain with power tools: Rain and electric power tools don’t mix. If the area you’re planning to work on is wet or damp, allow it to dry out before starting your project.
“Always wear proper shoes when working in the yard to protect your feet and toes,” said Dr. Sullivan. “Never wear sandals or go barefoot while mowing.”
Taking a few minutes to mentally review proper safety techniques before starting a job will keep you injury-free and your lawn looking great.
Dr. Luke Sullivan, DO, is an emergency medicine physician at Geisinger Wyoming Valley in Wilkes-Barre. For more information, visit Geisinger.org.