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Autumn Chores Often Hazardous

Take precautions to avoid falls, strains and sprains, experts say

SUNDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Taking health and safety precautions when raking leaves, cleaning gutters and performing other outdoor chores can help prevent injuries, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

"Many people work vigorously in the yard during the autumn season, and it often takes a toll on your body," AAOS spokesman Dr. Laurence Laudicina, said in a news release from the academy. "Raking leaves and cleaning out the gutters are popular seasonal chores that can lead to falls or strain to your back and upper body."

In 2008 in the United States, about 617,000 people suffered injuries caused by rakes, other outdoor garden supplies and ladders, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission noted.

So to help avoid becoming one of those statistics, the AAOS offers the following autumn chore safety tips:

  • Warm up for at least 10 minutes with some stretching and light exercise before beginning work in the yard.
  • Use a rake that's comfortable for your height and strength. You can prevent blisters by wearing gloves or using a rake with a padded handle.
  • Make sure that hats or scarves don't block your vision, and watch out for large rocks, low branches, tree stumps or uneven surfaces.
  • Vary your movements and alternate your leg and arm positions often. When picking up leaves, bend at the knees, not at the waist.
  • Wear shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles.
  • Don't overfill leaf bags, especially if the leaves are wet. You should be able to carry bags comfortably.
  • Don't throw leaves over your shoulder or to the side. That kind of twisting motion places undue stress on your back.
  • Inspect ladders for loose screws, hinges or rungs, and make sure it is free of mud, dirt or liquids.
  • Make sure all ladder legs rest on a firm, level surface. Don't use ladders on uneven ground or soft, muddy earth.
  • Always face a ladder when climbing and descending.
  • Confirm that the ladder is fully open and locked before you climb it.
  • Angle ladders about 75 degrees from the ground.
  • Don't sit or stand on the top of the ladder or on its pail shelf.
  • Use the right ladder for the job. Step stools or utility ladders are good for working at low or medium heights, while extension ladders should be used outdoors to reach high places.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers autumn health and safety tips.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, news release, Sept. 22, 2009

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