Summer is traditionally a season of relaxation and recreation, yet it’s also a common time for injuries as people step outside to enjoy the weather, take on summer projects around the house and enjoy a road trip or two. As we officially enter the summertime season, it’s important to educate yourself on the common injuries that occur during the summer months and how you can play a role in preventing them.
Slips and falls are two of the leading reasons for emergency room visits each year. As you head to the pool or begin a home improvement project, remember these tips to prevent injuries.
• Spills and wet surfaces, such as the deck of a pool or boat, can be extremely dangerous for both children and adults during the summer. While walking on wet or potentially slippery surfaces, take slow, small steps and use rails or other stable objects to hold onto.
• Proper ladder safety starts with a firm foundation. Always place the base on a firm, solid surface and avoid slippery, wet or soft surfaces. If you must put a ladder on a soft surface, place a board under the ladder’s feet.
• Always keep three points of contact when using a ladder: two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.
• Do not climb a ladder while carrying tools; use a tool belt.
• When using a ladder, do not stand higher than the third rung from the top.
In addition to thinking about preventing slips and falls, heat safety is also key during the summer months. Heat is one of the leading weather-related causes of death and injury in the U.S. and also one of the most preventable. Symptoms of heat overexertion can range from mild (heat exhaustion) to life-threatening (heat stroke), so it’s important to be heat smart and follow these steps to prevent heat-related illness.
• Stay hydrated! If you’re working outside, don’t wait to drink water until you’re thirsty. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which dehydrate the body, and replenish electrolytes lost due to excessive sweating by drinking sports drinks, such as Gatorade, and coconut water.
• Use a buddy system if you’re working in excessive temperature conditions. You can hold each other accountable for staying hydrated and practicing safe behaviors. You can also look out for the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke in each other and be there to call 9-1-1 should medical attention be needed.
• Don’t leave kids or pets alone in the car, even for a few minutes and even if the windows are open.
• Limit strenuous outdoor activities, especially during the hottest parts of the day. Scheduling strenuous activities in the early AM hours can reduce your risk as well.
• Wear light colored and loose clothing. Dark colors absorb the sun’s rays.
• If you do not have air conditioning, create a plan for where you can go for heat relief – especially during the hottest parts of the day (libraries, theaters, malls, etc.).
• Check on family, friends and neighbors who are elderly and sick and may not have adequate protection from the heat.
In addition to hanging by the pool, working on a home improvement project and stepping outside to enjoy the weather, summer is also an ideal time for travel. Whether you are taking a long road trip, visiting the beach or an amusement park or simply cruising around town, use these guidelines to stay safe on the road.
• As you begin to share the road with more pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcyclists during the summer months, keep a watchful eye. It’s important to remain aware of your surroundings, drive at a safe speed and always signal before changing lanes or merging with traffic.
• If you embark on a long road trip, don’t jeopardize safety in order to try to get there sooner. If you start to feel tired or drowsy while driving, pull over to rest, change drivers or consider staying overnight at a hotel.
• Avoid the risk of distracted driving by setting some safety rules with passengers before you hit the road. Common driving distractions include cell phone use, texting while driving, eating, drinking, talking with passengers and using in-vehicle technologies and portable electronic devices.
Preparation is an often overlooked first step when it comes to preventing common summertime injuries. Take safety into your own hands and remember these tips for an enjoyable, safe summer. If you don’t care about your safety, who will? For more safety tips and information to stay safe this summer, visit BeSafeOhio.com.
Michelle Francisco is Safety Council Program manager for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Division of Safety and Hygiene.