Take safety home: Remove the pain from fall cleanup

Autumn leaves aren't quite as beautiful when it's time to start raking. Because this task is often more physically demanding than people realize, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) recommends that people take precautions when raking:

  • As with any physical activity, it's important to warm up your muscles for at least 10 minutes with light exercise and stretching, especially when it's cold outside. You should also stretch your muscles after raking to relieve tension and prevent soreness.
  • Use a rake that feels comfortable for your height and strength.
  • Wear gloves or use rakes with padded handles to help prevent blisters
  • Avoid using old rakes that have gotten rusty or that have loose or broken parts.
  • Watch out for large rocks, low branches, tree stumps, and uneven surfaces. Don't let a hat or scarf block your vision.
  • Try to vary your movements, alternating your leg and arm positions often. When picking up leaves, bend at the knees, not the waist.
  • Wet leaves can be very slippery; use care when walking on them. Wear shoes or boots with slip-resistant soles.
  • Avoid overfilling leaf bags, especially if the leaves are wet. You should be able to carry filled bags comfortably. Make sure they aren't too heavy or large.
  • Don't throw the leaves over your shoulder or to the side. This requires a twisting motion that places undue stress on your back.

Aside from these AAOS recommendations, the Utah Safety Council suggests that your workers and their family members:

  • Keep rakes and other garden tools out of walkways or other areas where they can be a tripping hazard.Have plenty of clearance around you. Keep family members at a safe distance so they won't get hit by the rake's handle as you work.
  • If you plan to burn leaves, make sure the fire is safely controlled and legal. Many municipalities prohibit leaf burning altogether, or they require a permit for any burning. Wait until the wind is calm and other conditions are safe for a fire. Use an outdoor fireplace or other type of enclosure designed to safely contain outdoor fires when burning branches, sticks, twigs, or leaves.
  • Use carts or wagons to transport full bags of leaves.

Published 10-22-2010