Staying Safe While Doing Yard Work

After a long winter in which you spent much of your time indoors, it can feel great to go outside and enjoy spring time.  Many of us look forward to this time of year for the opportunity to spruce up the house, plant new flowers or improve the lawn, but it can also be a time of injury and illness for the unprepared or careless.

Yard work is much more difficult than you might expect, especially if you have remained inactive over the colder months.  Before you embark on a new beautification project, make sure to take the time to prepare yourself. It is unwise to assume that you are safe just because you are at home; more than 18,000 people in the U.S. die annually while at home, and home injuries result in more than 21 million medical visits each year.

Most Common Yard Tasks

If you are gearing up to do some yard work, you are joining millions of other American homeowners who are preparing to finish the following jobs:

  • Lawn maintenance
    • Mowing—the perennial chore for anyone with a yard, mowing can be difficult no matter how large or small the yard. Getting a lawn mower that suits your yard size is important. A push mower may work for smaller lawns, but you may need a riding mower for larger ones.
    • Seeding—once your yard thaws, you probably want to consider seeding your lawn. Once applied, you will also want to scatter straw on the lawn.
    • Weeding—while some people may remove weeds by hand, most homeowners use chemical weed killers.  The right herbicide depends on your lawn type and local flora.
    • Aerating—putting tiny holes into your lawn to allow more water and nutrients is potentially quite beneficial.  De-compacting your lawn is important for strengthening grass roots and improving their durability.
  • Shrub planting—if you intend to expand your shrubbery, then you may want to plant new ones in the fall. By spring, the roots should have grown to expedite plant growth in the warmer months.
  • Hedge trimming—as the warmth takes over, your trees and shrubs should grow rapidly, making trimming a seasonal responsibility. 
  • Home maintenance
    • Painting—many people use warmer days to apply a new coat of paint on the exterior or interior of their homes.
    • Roofing—it is fairly common to inspect, repair or redo your roof after months of snow or storms, but this is one of the most common venues for home accidents.
    • Gutter cleaning—along with roof repair is gutter cleaning. After the leaves accumulate, you want to remove them before the spring storms strike.

Biggest Yard Work Health Risks

Before you pull on the gloves and head outside, you should know what the most common injuries are while performing yard work.  If you are aware of these risks, you are more likely to avoid them.

  • Lawn mower accidents—thousands of people visit the ER every year because of missing fingers or toes from lawn mower mishaps. In order to minimize these risks, properly maintain your mower and only mow the lawn in safe conditions, i.e. daytime, dry grass, even ground.
  • Heat stroke—while it is okay in general to work hard, pace yourself, especially at the beginning.  Also be sure to take breaks regularly in the shade or air conditioned area.  Drink water while working; you may not realize that you are becoming dehydrated. Apply sunscreen to prevent sunburn if you are in direct sunlight.
  • Insect bites—you may want to shrug off the possibility of mosquito bites, bee stings or other insect attacks, but you should know that there are some deadly illnesses out there including West Nile, Lyme disease and Zika. To minimize these risks, where long clothing and apply DEET bug repellant.
  • Chainsaw mishaps—almost 36,000 people are rushed to the ER annually due to accidents involving chainsaws. Keep your chainsaw well oiled and maintained. Wear safety goggles and gloves. If you are unsure of your ability to handle a chainsaw properly, then you should probably hire a professional.
  • Hedge trimming accidents—more than 4,000 people are injured while trimming trees and bushes.  Most of these accidents involve a cut or amputated finger, but electrocutions and eye injuries are also quite common.
  • Ladder falls—almost 220,000 people go to the ER every year because they fall from a ladder.  Remember it is just as easy to fall inside and off of a short ladder as a tall one.
  • Electrocution—many people forget about electric lines in trees or underground until they run into them with a shovel or chainsaw. Call your utility company before you do any digging to make sure you aren’t uprooting a thousand-volt cable.

Important Safety Tips

The best way to avoid a painful and expensive trip to the hospital is take precautions before you do any yard work.

  • Always wear goggles—as one of the most vulnerable and important parts of your body, you should take special care to protect your eyes.  Always wear protective eyewear any time you are mowing the lawn or other yard work.
  • Wear long clothing—you want to limit your exposure to sun, bugs and flying debris, so wear long sleeves and long pants. You also want good shoes with firm footing to prevent slips and falls.
  • Use ladders safely—when you are up on a ladder, have someone else hold it for you. Always set the ladder on even, firm ground.  Never stand on the top rung.
  • Warm up—prior to starting, take some time to stretch out so that your muscles and joints are limber. This should lower the risk of a muscle strain.
  • Stay hydrated—in addition to taking regular breaks, you should drink plenty of water. You should do this even if it isn’t very hot because you can dehydrate in any conditions.
  • Know your tools—make sure that you are using your tools as intended by reading the owner’s manuals.

Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care

M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.  The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice, nor does reading or accessing this information create a patient-provider relationship.  Comments that you post will be shared with all visitors to this page. The comment feature is not governed by HIPAA and you should not post any of your private health information.