AEDC's Raabe warns personnel of personal spring hazards

  • Published
  • By Jim Raabe
With spring suddenly upon us and summer right around the corner, comes a whole new set of hazards around the house and yard that can ruin your day or life!

Most of us are itching to get outside and do some needed yard work or attempt those postponed house repairs. I know because I started this weekend as well as all of my neighbors.

If there is one thing I could emphasize, I would ask all of you to keep safety in mind as you tackle these chores that you may not have done for six months or in warmer weather. Just like beginning a new exercise program, working out in the yard under a hot sun requires moderation until acclimated.

Here are a few hazards I never fail to witness each spring.

Why would anyone operate weed eaters without eye protection? Again, in my line of business I've investigated instances of people who have lost their vision because they were not wearing protective eye gear when whacking those nasty weeds! It's so easy to strike a small pebble or twig and have it ricochet toward your eyes. Safety eyewear is relatively cheap. You can protect your eyes for $3-$10.

Figure 1 shows how these safety glasses lens protected an eye from an air powered staple gun. Protective eyewear has come a long way and you too could look cool and be safe while whacking those pesky weeds.

Ever see daddy riding proudly on a lawn mower with a small child on his lap? As a father, this one really bothers me knowing what could happen. Sure - every kid wants to be like dad and ride the big green mower but dads need to step back and heed safety.

Manufacturer's instructions always state do not allow children to ride as passengers or even be near the mower while in operation. There's a reason for them to warn consumers and usually these warnings were the result of a serious injury or death.

Just think what could happen and how you would feel if you caused a debilitating injury to your own child. This is just one of the many hazards identified in your manufacturer's instruction which now accompany everything you buy today. Read them and operate machinery safely.

How many times have you seen someone pushing a powered lawnmower with flip flops or other less than adequate footwear? Always use steel toed shoes for this task. If you've ever seen someone who wasn't wearing adequate footwear and pulled a lawnmower over their foot or over the foot of a child, who should not have been there, you know what I mean.

In fact, Dr. Scott Kozin of the Shriners Hospitals for Children who is a pediatric hand and foot surgeon has treated dozens of kids injured by lawn mowers. He says mower accidents are the number one cause of foot amputations in children nationwide. There are many stories and gruesome photos on the internet of amputations or disfigured limbs of people who didn't wear protective equipment when cutting lawns. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations and use your good sense to be as safe as you can possibly be.

Another one of the hazards frequently observed are ladders leaning on a building at an excessive angle, not tethered or not extended by three feet over the surface - I see this all the time. In fact, a friend at church broke his hip from a four-foot fall when he leaned instead of moving the ladder.

What can you do to reduce the risk of a fall? Tie-off single ladders to prevent movement where practical and ensure they are erected at the right angle. The suggested angle to erect ladders is a 4:1 ratio which equates to every four feet (or rungs) up the ladder the feet should be one foot further away from the side of the building (see Figure 2). Both provide the stability required to help prevent falls.

Also remember to inspect ladders. A damaged ladder will still fail if you do everything else right! Ensure the ladder is not bent, rivets broken, footings are intact and the ladder is rated for the intended purpose, i.e. don't use a metal ladder to do electrical work! Remember to use all ladders as intended by the manufacturer.

Last but not least is the one-handed chain saw draw. Even high ranking executives don't get away with this one.

I knew someone who nearly whacked off his nose and cut his shoulder deep when trying to reach a branch with one arm while the other arm tried to maintain balance. Note - I said "tried." He lost balance and didn't have full control of the chainsaw so the saw did some damage. You know what a chainsaw can do to hard wood, so why take a chance and allow it to cut like butter through your muscle? Also wear additional personal protective equipment as required by the manufacturer's instructions.

I'm sure you noticed I referenced the "manufacturer's recommendations/instructions" numerous times. One sentence in most manufacturers' instructions should stick out like a sore thumb "improper use can cause serious or fatal injury"!

Just like at the worksite, you must follow written procedures and warnings at home or a serious injury could occur.

Have a safe spring and summer!