Here’s a statistic: In the last year alone, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported more than half a million fall home maintenance-related injuries – and 40,000-plus of those incidents were caused by raking!
“Never underestimate the task at hand while cleaning,” says Dr. Patrick Osborn, spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ (AAOS). “Even the most mundane or simple chores can cause strain, injury, or even a fall if not done correctly. For instance, when using a ladder, never stand on the top rung.”
Dr. Osborn and the AAOS strongly advise homeowners to keep safety in mind when tackling fall clean-up this year. Here are some tips.
1. Use a comfortable rake. Select a rake that is suitable for your height and strength.
2. Service equipment. Have equipment such as leaf blowers serviced before using for the first time this season.
3. Inspect the ladder. Check the ladder for any loose screws, hinges or rungs and clean off any mud or liquids that might have accumulated on the ladder.
4. Properly set up the ladder. Every ladder should be placed on a firm, level surface. Never place a ladder on ground that is uneven and watch for soft, muddy spots. The same is true for uneven flooring. Remember to always engage the ladder locks or braces before climbing. If working outside, make sure the ladder — when extended — will not hit electrical wires, tree limbs or any other obstructions.
5. Remember the one-to-four rule. The bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall for every four feet that the ladder rises. For example, if the ladder touches the wall 16 feet above the ground, the base of the ladder should be four feet from the wall. If you are going to climb onto a roof, the ladder should extend at least three feet higher than the rooftop. And, the upper and lower sections of an extension ladder should overlap to provide stability.
6. Avoid using ladders in adverse weather conditions. It's unsafe to use ladders outside if there is rain, wind, snow, ice or some other factor that can increase the risk of slipping and falling.
7. Select the right ladder for the job. If you're washing windows inside the home, choose a step stool or utility ladder, which are often used when working at low or medium heights. Extension ladders are ideal for use outdoors to reach high places, like when cleaning the gutters on the rooftop. The weight the ladder is supporting also should never exceed its maximum load capacity.
8. Move materials with caution when on the ladder. While cleaning the garage or closet, be careful when pushing or pulling items from shelves. It is easy to be thrown off-balance and fall.
9. Always position the ladder closer to the work. Over-reaching or leaning too far to one side can make you lose your balance and fall. Your belly button should not go beyond the sides of the ladder!
10. Wear proper footwear. Make sure your shoelaces are tied and the soles of your shoes are free of any debris or greasy, oily or wet substances. Do not wear leather-soled shoes, as they are slippery. Pant legs shouldn't be too wide or too long.
Most importantly, be safe and ask someone to hold the ladder while you climb. Stay in the center of the ladder as you ascend, and always hold the side rails with both hands.