Spring into Action with These

Home Safety Tips

Keep safety top of mind when performing home improvements and using any type of machinery, tools or other equipment.

For many, springtime signals spending more time outdoors and the start of some much-needed spring cleaning. It’s a time to get rid of clutter; perform lawn maintenance; clean house gutters; repair or maintain windows and roofs; trim tree limbs and bushes, and a host of other tasks.

Whether at work or home, safety should always be your highest priority. In the industrial world, safety guidelines and procedures are in place to prevent potential injuries or bodily harm. When it comes to personal safety at home, however, we tend to be a bit complacent. If you find yourself saying, “I probably shouldn’t do this” then don’t do it or figure out a safer way to perform the task. The unexpected mishap or accident can happen at any time.

The safety tips presented here are to ensure you keep safety top of mind as you check off your home to-do list.

1. Muscle Strain, Slips, Trips and Falls

Safety is a state of mind. Before you tackle those big spring-cleaning projects, be aware of potential hazards around you and the physical exertion – and sometimes repetitive motion – indoor and outdoor tasks can take on your body. Muscle strains, slips, trips and falls are among the most common injuries suffered at work or home. Sore backs, stiff necks and pulled muscles result in missed personal or work time and needless pain.

To avoid muscle strains, stretch for five or ten minutes prior to performing a task. The most effective method is to pace yourself and warm up slowly going through the actual motions of the work to be performed for about 3 to 10 minutes.

To prevent slipping, tripping or falling, watch out for extension cords or other types of cords around the house and tread carefully around freshly mopped floors. Always keep a hand on the stair railing going up or down – no exceptions! When performing tasks up high, use secure indoor step ladders instead of chairs or countertops and straight or extension ladders for outdoor jobs.

2. Extension Ladder Use and Care

Extension ladders are an indispensable necessity for accessing those hard-to-reach places. Unsafe use of extension ladders can lead to serious injuries. The following incident really happened:

A man was home alone performing roof repair work. Upon descending the extension ladder, his foot slipped. As he tried to regain footing, the top of the ladder popped up and out of its locked position. As the ladder slid, it caught his foot between the rungs, throwing him off balance. Before he knew it, he was dangling upside down with his foot wedged tightly in the ladder rungs. Now what?

In this real-life incident, the man hung upside down for a good half hour trying to dislodge his foot. Fortunately, a friend arrived and helped him get upright enough to free the foot. Despite his humiliating predicament and sprained ankle, he was happy to be alive and limp away with two very valuable safety lessons: Don’t ever work alone doing potentially hazardous tasks and make certain the ladder’s interlocking mechanism is securely fastened.

Some other safety tips for proper extension ladder use and care are as follows:

  • Be mindful of the ladder’s size and weight as moving it into position is often a two-person job and can potentially cause muscle strain, back injury, or worse if it topples on top of you.
  • Set the ladder at a four-to-one angle, with the base one foot out from the wall for every four feet of height. Don’t shift, reposition, or extend while in use.
  • Observe the three-point rule when ascending or descending – always maintain two hands and one foot, or one hand and two feet on the ladder rungs.
  • Never stand on the four top rungs of a straight or extension ladder.
  • Never over-reach while working from a ladder. It’s best to work with your body within the ladder’s side rails.
  • Watch out for power lines working in and around trees.
  • Ensure the slip-resistant D-rungs are clean, wiping off any oils, dirt, or accumulated materials before and after each use.
  • Check the guides on the bottom of the fly section that securely interlock rails. Raise and lower extension to ensure the interlocking rails are functioning properly and interlock simultaneously.
  • Inspect the rugged gravity spring locks that keep the fly section locked into place. Look for cracks or damage.
  • Check to ensure the extended pulley and rope system is clean of debris. Check for frayed or loose rope strands and any materials that may have attached themselves to the rope. Replace immediately if damaged.
  • Make sure the rope clamp that ties the rope to the rung is secure and free of debris. Replace clamp if damaged.

3. Hand and Power Tool Use

All tools present some type of hazard if not used or cared for properly. Hazards are usually caused by misuse, improper maintenance, and complacency. As power tools operate at high speeds, things can go wrong very quickly. Always operate any power tools according to the manufacturer’s instructions – yes, actually read the instruction manual!

Inspect all tools on a regular basis, especially before and after each use, and wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as safety goggles, steel-toed boots, leather gloves, and hearing protection.

  • Look for broken or damaged power cords, safety guards and warning labels, corroded, cracked, or bent components.
  • Be sure the wooden handles of tools, such as shovels, trench picks, axes, and so on, are kept free of splinters or cracks and are tight where they connect to the tool.
  • Don’t use wrenches, including adjustable, pipe, end, and socket wrenches when jaws are sprung to the point that slippage occurs. 
  • Keep impact tools, such as drift pins, wedges, and chisels, free of mushroomed heads.
  • Make certain power tools are equipped with proper shields and guards – manufacturer recommended.
  • Ensure all electric power tools have a three-wire cord plugged into a grounded receptacle or are double insulated.
  • Use extra caution when using power tools around flammable materials.
  • Never use power tools in wet/damp conditions.
  • Never hoist or lower power tools using their electric cord.
  • Always disconnect tools when not in use and when changing accessories such as blades and bits.
  • Never wear loose-fitting clothing, sandals, open-toed or canvas shoes when working with tools.

4. Lawn Mowers, Weed Wackers and Leaf Blowers

What do each of these have in common? They project debris like missiles at anything near them. Before using these tools, be sure they are in good working order and that any potentially hazardous objects are picked up prior to using. Also, ensure no people or animals are nearby, and turn them off if someone approaches. Wear the proper PPE while using any of these tools and follow the instruction manuals.

Be mindful of child safety around lawn mowers. You may think it is fun to take them for a joy ride, but it is dangerous for children to be on or near lawn mowers. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, approximately 17,000 children are injured each year due to lawn-mower-related accidents. They recommend children be at least 12-years old to operate a walking power mower and 16 years for a riding mower with proper safety training.

Other mower safety tips:

  • Never use your hands to remove grass or debris.
  • Never lift a mower from the bottom – the blades are sharp and can cut fingers.
  • Never cut wet grass as it can clog your mower and ruin the lawn.
  • Never mow in reverse.
  • Turn off engine and let cool down before refueling.
  • Turn off and let blades stop to remove grass catcher.
  • Do not wear open-toed shoes or sandals.

Finally, while working outdoors for long periods of time, remember a hot sun can take its toll on you if you don’t stay properly hydrated. For more information on heat-related illnesses, see the blog, Beat the Heat.

5. Smoke Detectors

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the top causes of home fires is cooking, heating, electrical, smoking and candles. As part of your spring-cleaning routine, make a point to ensure your smoke detectors are in good working order.

The NFPA suggests installing smoke alarms on every level of your home and in or near sleeping areas and replace them if they are 10-years old. They also recommend pushing the test button monthly to ensure they are working properly.

6. Critters

As we begin to get outdoors and bask in the warmer days of spring, so do the critters – spiders, snakes, bees, you name it. They are all lurking in the most unexpected places, waiting to come out of their hiding places.

While repairing the wood siding under the eaves of his house, a man noticed a crack in the board seemingly opening and getting larger right in front of his face. Suddenly, a large bat flew by his face, startling the guy who almost fell off his ladder. 

In this real-life incident, the man could have fallen and been seriously injured after disturbing the bat’s unbelievably narrow sleeping place.

As you work in the yard, basement, garage, or up high on a ladder, be aware of hidden nooks and crannies that make good dwelling places for all types of critters. Always be aware of your surroundings, use protective gloves when cleaning out any of these areas and have a first-aid kit on hand for potential bites or stings, as you never know when something might crawl, slither, or fly at you.

Remember to keep safety top of mind at the start and end of each day.

Happy spring – be safe!