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September 29, 2015

Rake Those Leaves, But Do It Safely!

For many around the U.S., autumn’s most visible calling card is the leafy debris covering our yards after the first big windstorm of the season. Although colorful and fun to jump in, those piles of leaves mean yard work and that can mean injuries.

In today’s post, let’s see what the experts from the fields of osteopathy and orthopaedics recommend we keep in mind as we pick up those rakes and head out our garden doors.

In an article for the Rothman Institute, Dr. George W. Young, D.O. reminds us that:

“Raking is a twisting and pulling motion that most individuals aren’t used to performing. This puts you at a heightened risk for muscle strain and pain following this activity, especially if you have a large yard. Prior to starting, you should properly warm-up with light activity for approximately 10-15 minutes, such as walking. Follow your warm-up by stretching your shoulders, back and legs prior to starting. Proper stretching should be gentle with no pain and held for approximately 20-30 seconds without bouncing.”

And don’t forget to protect your back when it’s time to move those heavy bags of leaves or fallen tree limbs:

“Bend at the knees with your feet shoulder width apart, keeping your back straight, tightening your abdomen and lifting with your legs, not your back. If you are straining to lift the heavy object, stop and get help.”

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) offers some additional raking and bagging safety tips, including:

  • Use a rake that is comfortable for your height and strength
  • Wear gloves or use rakes with padded handles to prevent blisters, and vary your movement, alternating your leg and arm positions often.
  • Keep your vision free of impediment and wear shoes with slip-resistant soles.
  • To avoid back injuries, do not overfill leaf bags. Never carry or throw a bag over your shoulder or to the side. The twisting motion places undo stress on your back.

Our last leaf tip comes from the LoveToKnow website, and it’s a great reminder about why we want to clear those leaves away in the first place:

“Keep your driveway and walkway clear of falling leaves. Wet leaves can create a hazard for pedestrians in the fall by making sidewalks slippery. Later in the season, snow may mix with leaves to increase the risk of falling. Homeowners should mulch or rake up fallen leaves and dispose of them according to local bylaws.”

Be safe out there, yard work warriors!

Note to our safety professional readers: Need to get some back safety into your EH&S plan at work? Summit has a number of courses to help you help everyone stay safe and healthy on the job, including Back Safety, Back Injury Prevention, Flex and Stretch, and Muscle Strains & Sprains. Explore our courses by clicking the button below.

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