Some years ago I wrote about a freak accident I experienced at my pool that was really dramatic, and it led to my being more aware of taking precautions to avoid getting hurt when working or playing outside the home. Just this week, another incident prompts me to remind myself and readers of safety tips outside the home.
The incident years ago was exceptionally bizarre. I had been in the deep end of my pool finishing up some exercises to deal with a bad lower back. Emerging from the pool, I was heading toward my back door when suddenly I heard the sound of heavy collapse just behind me, followed by an enormous splash. I turned around to see that a major limb from a dead tree near the pool had fallen directly into the pool exactly where my head had been bobbing less than a minute before! It could have killed me.
That old elm, having avoided Dutch elm disease into maturity, died at least three years prior to that incident, and I know I should have taken it down, but it offered a strange beauty in that it had been totally entwined with old wisteria vines that bloomed abundantly each spring. It was probably the wisteria that killed it, but somehow I thought that it would hold the tree up. Dead trees, especially if they are within falling distance of the house, must be taken down.
This time around, quite simply, I didn’t tie the laces to my work shoes properly, tripped and fell squarely and painfully on one knee. How simple would it have been to avoid that?
While most accidents happen inside the home, a great percentage of them happen outside. I’ve had my fair share of them through the years, from accidentally disturbing a wasps’ nest and sustaining multiple stings, to tripping on a vine traveling along the ground (the darned wisteria again) and wrenching my back when I hit the deck.
According to the National Safety Council, there are as many as 33,000 fatalities each year resulting from accidents outside the home and as many as 230,000 serious accidents that require visits to the hospital emergency rooms.
Statistics also show that most outside accidents happen from using tools improperly and that most accidents are related to lawn mowers.
Here are some safety tips for outdoor activity offered by various manufacturers of lawn mowers and other equipment:
Prepare in advance of mowing by walking around the area to remove any objects like sticks, glass, metal, wire, stones and string that could cause injury or damage to equipment. Nails and wire are the most hazardous items that can be thrown by mowers, capable of killing bystanders.
Children should never be in the yard when mowing the lawn and should never ride on the mower. More than 800 children per year are injured by being run over by riding mowers.
Children must be kept totally away from power equipment because many suffer burns to hands and arms when they touch the hot muffler of running engines.
Be sure to know how to operate the equipment, where the controls are and what they do. Dress appropriately for outside jobs. Proper footwear is most important (when I tripped on that vine I was wearing flip-flops and definitely asking for trouble, which I got). Long pants and long sleeved shirts are preferable (and a deterrent to those nasty deer ticks). Eye protection is frequently needed as are heavy gloves, hearing protection and, for women, removal of jewelry, which can get caught in moving parts.
Never work with electric power tools in wet conditions. For protection against being electrocuted, a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) should be used. There are both plug-in types and those that are part of some extension cords.
Handle gasoline carefully, remembering never to fill gas tanks while machinery is operating or when equipment is still hot, and do not fuel equipment indoors.
Something that few people think about: hoses left just loosely in various parts of the garden are an invitation for an accident. It’s best to have them stored in a hose reel.
To prevent back injuries, it’s advisable to use a wheelbarrow for heavy stones, but I find the use of a sturdy two-wheeled dolly perfect for moving extremely large rocks from one location to another.
And when using ladders, they should be firmly set or held by a garden helper.
One final note that I want to share that’s equally important about protecting yourself outside: Remember to block the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays by using sunscreen.
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.