Yard Work Safety

Fall is the season for football, changing leaf colors, and — because of yard work — back injuries, tumbles from ladders and lawn mower accidents. Each year, thousands of Americans are injured cleaning gutters, raking leaves, washing windows and doing other chores. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons urges people to take the proper safety precautions to reduce the number of cleaning-related accidents this season.

Dr. Kathryn McCarthy, one of our spine specialists, offers some proper techniques for lifting, carrying and bending that should ensure your safety during these fall activities. She brings the perfect balance of the latest, minimally invasive techniques with the compassion and expertise for treating degenerative conditions and trauma of the spine in adults.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

  • In 2010, more than 35,500 people injured themselves using a stepladder

  • More than 127,000 were injured while operating a lawn mower

Lifting Heavy Objects

Proper techniques for lifting, carrying and bending should be part of any outdoor or indoor cleaning project to avoid back injuries:

  • Separate your feet, shoulder-width apart and keep your back upright.

  • Bend at the knees while tightening the stomach muscles.

  • Lift with your leg muscles as you stand up; don’t try to lift any object by yourself if it is too heavy or an awkward shape.


  • Raking can be vigorous exercise. Before you begin, warm up for at least 10 minutes with some stretching and light exercise.

  • Use a rake that is comfortable for your height and strength.

  • Wear gloves or use rakes with padded handles to prevent blisters, and vary your movement, alternating your leg and arm positions often.

  • To avoid back injuries, do not overfill leaf bags. Never carry or throw a bag over your shoulder or to the side. The twisting motion places undo stress on your back.

Ladder Use

Ladders used for chores – such as washing windows, painting, cleaning gutters and trimming trees – should be placed on a firm, level surface. In addition:

  • Never place a ladder on ground or flooring that is uneven, soft or wet.

  • Use a sturdy step stool instead of a counter or furniture – such as a chair or the couch – when cleaning high, hard-to- reach areas.

  • When working on a ladder, over-reaching or leaning too far to one side can make you lose your balance and fall. Your bellybutton should not go beyond the sides of the ladder.

  • Never stand on the top rung — this can result in orthopaedic injuries like fractures or breaks.