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Be more mindful of safety when working, playing outdoors

Posted on: June 7th, 2019 by Dr. Jeffrey Earhart

With warmer weather, we tend to spend more time outside. As a trauma surgeon, that means I and my colleagues start to see a higher volume of injuries related to spring and summer activities.

We often hear or joke that people forget how to drive in the snow once the first flakes fall during the winter. Similarly, it’s not that people forget how to be safe when working and playing outside – they’re mostly just eager to get started, in a rush and don’t prioritize some simple ways to prevent injuries.

Here’s a general overview of the accidents and injuries we tend to see as the temperatures increase and some reminders on how to stay safe.

Motorcycles

Maybe you’ve already seen the “Start Seeing Motorcycles” advertisements from the Illinois Department of Transportation this spring. As drivers, we need to be more aware that motorcycles are on the road during warmer weather.

According to state and federal officials, motorcyclist deaths occurred 28 times more frequently than fatalities in other vehicles. Motorcycle riders need to prioritize wearing safety gear – helmets, close-toed shoes, and long pants and shirts with long sleeves. The more skin is exposed, the higher the chance for soft-tissue injuries.

Individuals also need to practice safe riding, such as not cutting in and out of traffic or driving down a median or shoulder. A motorcycle crash without these safety measures in place can certainly be fatal or produce life-altering injuries.

Playgrounds

Children are eager to play outside – whether that’s in the backyard or at a local park – after being cooped up all winter. Now that I have two kids, I understand it’s impossible to watch their every move every second, but there are some general guidelines we can teach them about playground safety.

First off, guide children toward age-appropriate equipment. Kids between the ages of 3 to 5 maybe aren’t the best suited for the monkey bars because they can’t hold themselves up.

Remind kids to be aware and patient (as difficult as that might be). An example of this is to not walk in front of people who are on the swings so they don’t get knocked or pushed over.

Accidents such as fractures happen with these types of play accidents. Trust your child if this occurs. If they don’t want to move an ankle or an arm, there is likely as injury as kids don’t typically fake that type of pain. Adults can downplay injuries, but if a child is favoring an arm like a broken bird wing, seek treatment. Urgent injury care is available through one of our Injury Express locations.

Mowing and using ladders

Yard work is a constant for homeowners whether it feels like a chore or it’s an enjoyable hobby. Using everyday equipment for these tasks can prove dangerous on occasion.

Lawnmowers can cause serious injuries such as lacerations and muscle or tendon damage. Follow the safety instructions for these and turn them off before doing any type of maintenance work and don’t put your body (hands, feet, etc.) anywhere near the blades.

Riding lawnmowers can be especially dangerous if they become unstable and roll over onto a person. It’s important to remember these are not toys or sport equipment like all all-terrain vehicle (ATV). It might be tempting to crack open a beer while you’re mowing the lawn, but injuries from these machines can alter your life.

Using ladders for everything from cleaning the gutters to painting the house is another one of those necessary evils for homeowners. Make sure you have a spotter and that you’re not standing on the very top step. If you have to work on the roof, stay in a seated position sitting outward so you can be aware of the ground and the rest of your visual field.

Also, when using ladders, consider your own health conditions and your physical abilities. If you have high or low blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, or suffer from diabetes or unstable blood sugars, those can increase your risk of balance issues and falling from a ladder.

Farming

Farmers, for the most part, recognize the dangers of their profession and they follow the safety guidelines for the equipment they use. They can also be reminded to turn equipment off before fixing things and to seek treatment if they do sustain injuries.

Farming accidents can be severe, and it’s important to cover up a wound and get to an emergency room as soon as possible. If a piece of equipment falls on an arm or leg, ice and elevate the limb until emergency personnel arrives.

Any injury on a farm has a higher risk of infection because of dirt and debris. That’s why it’s especially important to wear protective gear and seek medical attention right away.

Most of us have good intentions when playing and working outside during the spring and summer. And many of these safety tips may seem obvious in retrospect, but they’re good reminders. In general, use common sense and know your limitations when it comes to working and don’t be afraid to ask for help.