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Not So Much Fun in the Sun: Summer Safety Issues

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Summer Safety

Not So Much Fun in the Sun: Summer Safety Issues

August 21, 2009

By: Indu Ohri for Scars1

When you think of common summer hazards, mosquitoes, sun exposure, and food poisoning usually come to mind. Below is a list of surprising summer safety issues that you may want to watch out for this season.

1. Gardening

Although gardening is a relaxing and low-stress activity, lawn- and garden-tool related injuries account for 400,000 emergency room (ER) visits per year. If gardeners do not take certain safety precautions, they may risk injury while caring for their flowers and plants. The repetitive movements involved in gardening, such as weeding, digging, and raking, can place stress on the neck, back, elbows, hands, and knees.

Gardening tools can cause injuries through their improper use, failure to follow safety instructions, and equipment malfunction. By working outside, gardeners face exposure to excessive sunlight, insect-transmitted diseases, and toxic substances such as poisonous plants, bacteria, and pesticides. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list a number of tips to prevent injury while gardening:

  • Take breaks often to prevent stress injuries from repetitive motions
  • Wear long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats, and sun screen with SPF 15 or higher
  • Drink water to stay hydrated and use insect repellant containing DEET
  • Wear safety goggles, sturdy shoes, and long pants when using all lawn and garden equipment
  • Follow instructions and warning labels on chemicals and lawn and garden equipment
  • Before you start gardening, make sure your tetanus/diphtheria (Td) vaccination is up to date
  • Call 911 if you get injured, experience chest and arm pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, or heat-related illness
2. Lawn Mowers

During the summer, one of the typical household chores is mowing the lawn to keep the grass trimmed. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), nearly 210, 000 people, including 16, 200 children and teens under the age of 20, suffered injuries from lawn mower-related accidents in 2007. These injuries can range from minor cuts and burns to broken bones, severed fingers and toes, and dismembered limbs.

These wounds are usually the result of carelessness and negligence and a child’s or adult’s mistaken belief that a lawnmower is a “toy.” Treatment for these injuries may require a team of physicians who perform painful reconstructive surgeries that can take months or years to heal. Several medical organizations such as The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), The American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM), and The American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons (ASMS) have compiled the following guidelines so you can mow your lawn safely:

  • Children should be at least 12-years-old before they operate any lawn mower, and at least 16-years-old to use a ride-on mower
  • Always wear eye and hearing protection while mowing, along with sturdy shoes
  • Young children should be kept indoors and at a safe distance from the place you are mowing
  • Prevent injuries from flying objects by picking up stones, toys, and debris from the lawn before mowing
  • Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary–carefully look for others behind you when you do
  • Start and refuel mowers outdoors–not in a garage. Refuel with the motor turned off and cool
3. Barbecue Grills

A cook flipping a row of sizzling hamburgers for family and friends may not suspect the grill could also create burns, fires, or explosions. According to The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 18, 600 patients visited ERs because of grill-related injuries in 2007. From 2003-2006, fire departments responded to an average of 7, 900 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues a year. These 7, 900 fires caused an annual average of 10 deaths, 120 reported injuries, and $80 million in direct property damage.

Charcoal grills produce carbon monoxide (CO), a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that can lead to poisoning in enclosed areas. Gas or liquid petroleum (LP) grills run mainly on LP gas or propane, which are highly combustible gases that are often the source of fires or explosions. Most of these fires or explosions occur when a person lights a grill that has been unused for a while or just after refilling and reattaching the gas container on the grill.

A grill can burn people who place exposed skin near its hot surface. It could also start a blaze if it is located near anything that could catch fire. From 2003-2006, 33 percent of the home structure fires involving grills ignited from an exterior balcony or unenclosed porch, 18 percent flared up from a courtyard, terrace, or patio, and 11 percent began on an exterior surface wall. The NFPA gives the following safety measures so you can enjoy a barbecue without worrying about serious burns or fires:

  • Propane and charcoal grills should only be used outdoors
  • The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill area
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and trays below the grills
  • Never leave your grill unattended
4. Fireworks

Besides New Year’s Eve, the Fourth of July is the best time to see a brilliant display of light, sound, and color from fireworks honoring America’s independence. Many families celebrate at home by lighting consumer fireworks such as sparklers, firecrackers, and Roman candles. In the United States, consumer fireworks are legal in all states except five: Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. The widespread availability of consumer fireworks and their bright flashes and bangs disguise the fact that these explosive devices can inflict injuries such as burns, scars, and disfigurement.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) 2008 Annual Fireworks Report, 7 people died from fireworks-related deaths in 2008. ERs across the country treated 7,000 fireworks-related injuries, and an estimated 5, 000 (70 percent) of those injuries happened between June 20 and July 20, 2008. Children and teens under the age of 20 suffered the most damage from consumer fireworks, since they sustained 58 percent of all injuries. Fireworks are also a major fire hazard for people because people use them near personal property such as houses. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), fireworks caused approximately 30, 100 fires a year and accounted from $34 million in direct property loss in 2006.

The National Council on Fireworks Safety (NCFS) and the CPSC provide the following suggestions for consumer fireworks use:

  • Do not allow young children to play with fireworks under any circumstances and supervise older children with fireworks
  • Light fireworks outdoors, in a clear area away from houses, dry leaves, or grass and flammable materials and store unused fireworks in a cool, dry place
  • Use a bucket of water or a hose to soak used fireworks and fireworks that don’t go off–do not attempt to relight any “dud” fireworks
  • Be sure everyone is out of range before lighting fireworks–do not throw or point them at others
  • Observe local laws and do not use illegal or homemade fireworks

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the only foolproof way to protect yourself and your children from fireworks injuries is to avoid consumer fireworks and attend professional fireworks displays given by trained professionals.

These four summer pastimes can pose a great danger to people who are unaware of the risks associated with them. By practicing the safety guidelines for each activity, you can reduce the chance of injury to yourself and your family. As a result, you will enjoy yourself even more the next time you care for your colorful flowers, mow your well-manicured lawn, grill a few juicy hotdogs, or set off a dazzling sparkler.



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