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Leaves, rakes and fall risks to your yard safety hazards.

Yes it is fall and the leaves are falling every where so as you rake and swear there must be a better way or wonder if you get all the raking done, what hazards are you looking at in this fall yard activity? Fall is the season nature paints beautiful landscapes of various shades of orange, red, yellow and brown in our yards and hillsides. This is the time of year the green leaves change colors to make this magnificent scenery as they slowly fall to the ground, making this scenic wonder a chore for many homeowners and even a safety risk.

Oh did you mention snake in the list, snakes like to lurk. Don’t invite slithery trouble into your own home either: Keep your lawn trimmed, don’t leave piles of brush or debris in your yard and periodically check storage sheds, garages and basements for openings a snake may find enticing. Be especially careful around ivy: It’s the highly venomous copperhead snake’s favorite hideout.

Homeowners respond in various ways. Some choose to bury the leaves, others rake them up and bag them while others decide to make a pile and burn them. This latter decision can become a major safety hazard, especially during a drought. So let’s review some safety measures to help keep your property safe around your home in the fall to help reduce safety risks during a drought.

Use caution when burning leaves/brush. Clear leaves away from your home and other buildings. Burn leaves only when permitted and in accordance with local laws and guidelines. Use extreme caution to ensure safety and control of the fire. Currently there is a ban on burning trash, leaves or brush outdoors in Jefferson County, along with other counties throughout the state, due to drought conditions. Another reason for the burning bans has been to reduce the formation of ground-level ozone. Efforts to reduce ozone in Alabama have been very successful. May through the beginning of October is typically very dry in this state.

It is important that you develop a safety zone around your home free from tall grass, brush or other flammable vegetation.

It’s that time of year again, time for raking leaves. Did you know that raking leaves for a long period of time, without taking a break, can be dangerous to your health? This is especially true if you are a male over 40, or a female over 50, and suffer from heart disease, high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

It’s very important to visit your physician before starting any new exercise program, and that includes raking. Hours of raking, non-stop, can be strenuous to the heart. TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY

Speaking of backache, be sure to practice proper raking technique before, during, and after your work. Raking is a real workout, and you need to warm up your body by stretching before you start.

While you’re raking, be sure to keep a good posture and stand upright. Switch your main (bottom) hand on a regular basis, and always bend at the knees (not the back) when you stoop to pick up a pile.

Also, don’t try to do too much at once. Divide your yard into sections and work on them over a period of days. Or, if you have limited time, take breaks in between each section to drink water and rest.

As enticing as they may appear, hidden dangers could be lurking under leaf piles that parents would be wise to keep in mind.

For example, if the leaves are wet – which, given the amount it rains, is not uncommon – you risk your child coming into contact with certain bacteria such as mould.

This can be especially harmful to kids who suffer from asthma or have an allergy to the fungus.

Piles of fallen leaves could also be home to nasty parasites like ticks.

“If you rake a bunch of leaves up from (where your yard meets the woods) there is a possibility that there is a tick but only if there are ticks there to begin with.”

It also pays to be aware of potential physical hazards that could be lurking in piles of leaves.

If they’ve been raked up, stones and sharp sticks may have found their way into the stack, while if it’s been there for a few days it may be inhabited by frogs, mice and biting insects.

Scarier still, in 2014 two young girls in Oregon, US, were killed after a driver failed to spot them playing in a pile of leaves and drove an SUV straight over them.

Listen, we don’t want to spoil ALL your fun – just make sure any leaves you jump in are freshly raked and in a safe location.

Maintain your yard by keeping your trees and shrubs pruned around chimney outlets. Also keep your entire yard mowed, raked and free of dead limbs. Regularly clean your gutters and roof to make sure they are free of debris. Maintain an adequate water supply around your home.

Don’t park any motorized vehicles on the grass for several reasons, but especially during the drought because the grass/shrubs/fallen leaves are very dry. Exhaust systems can far exceed the 500 degrees it takes to start a summer/fall brush fire. It is wise to always stay on pavement at your home and even if you have to pull off to the side of the road while traveling.

Place some household tools close by just in case you need to use them before the fire department is able to arrive. These firefighting tools are items such as a rake, ax, bucket, shovel, etc.

But what about the RAKE

Raking your lawn is a necessary task when the leaves start to fall. However, there are some things that you can do to make the job easier on yourself, such as getting a quality rake and using the proper body position. You can also make the task easier by waiting until the right time to rake and wearing the proper gear for the job. By combining these techniques, your yard will be leaf free in no time. Match your rake to the type of leaves you have in your yard and to your body. At stores, try rakes on for size before you buy. Rakes with metal tines last longer than plastic ones, but plastic tines may be lighter

Use a quality rake. Many people have an old rake in the tool shed, but an older rake may not be as efficient as a new one. To make raking more efficient, invest in a quality rake.

·        Look for a rake that has an ergonomic handle and that is lightweight. This will help to reduce the strain on your back.

·        Choosing a rake that has a wide end will also help to ensure that you can rake up as many leaves a possible with every sweep.

Position your body properly. Proper body positioning is also essential to successful raking. Some things to keep in mind when you rake include:

·        Your hand positions. When you hold the rake, grasp it with both hands and change your hand positions now and then as you rake.

·        Your knees. Keep your knees slightly bent. Try not to bend too far forward at the waist.

·        Your movement. It is helpful to move backwards as you rake. Try to rake the leaves towards you as you walk backwards.

Transport your leaves with a tarp. You can also save time and energy by raking your leaves onto a tarp, sheet, or canvas cloth. Before you begin raking, lay out a tarp or other large piece of material on the ground. Then, begin raking the leaves onto the tarp.

·        Rake one area of your yard until the tarp is full, then drag the tarp to your main pile.

·        If you prefer, you can also rake your leaves directly into bags. Then, you can transport the bags to a mulch pile or other disposal area.

Stomp on your pile. As you rake leaves onto the tarp or into bags, make sure that you stomp them down now and then. This will help to ensure that you have plenty of room for all of your leaves.

·        To stomp on your leaves, simply step on them or put one foot into the leaf bag to stomp them down.

·        If you are using bags, just try to avoid filling the bags too full. You should still be able to pick the bags up easily.

Mow early fall leaves into your lawn. In early fall, there might not be enough leaves on the ground to justify raking your whole lawn. However, if you have some early fall leaves that are bothering you, then you can mow them into your lawn. This will help to give your lawn extra nutrients and save you some time.

Choose a calm day to rake. Windy conditions will make raking more difficult. If possible, wait for a calm day to do your raking. However, if you have to rake on a windy day, then try to rake the leaves with the wind and not against it.

·        For example, you could place your pile on the side of the yard that the wind is blowing towards. Then, rake all of your leaves in that direction.

Ensure that the leaves are dry. Check the leaves for dampness before you begin raking. If the leaves are wet, then they will be harder to rake. They will also weigh down the bags or other containers that you put them in, which will make it harder for you to move them.

·        To make your job a little easier, wait until the leaves are dry to start raking them. Watch the weather and check the leaves before you get started.

·        PPE  Wear gloves. Holding the handle of the rake can cause blisters on your hands. Your hands may also get dirty from picking up leaves from your pile and placing them into bags. To protect your hands, make sure that you wear a pair of heavy duty canvas or leather work gloves.

Wear long sleeves and pants. Wearing long sleeves and pants is also a good idea when you are doing yard work. Even if the weather is not cold yet, there may be insects, snakes, and other small creatures lurking in your yard. Wearing long pants and long sleeves will help to protect you from bites.

·        A pair of jeans and a long sleeve shirt is a good choice for raking leaves.

·        You can wear a jacket and a hat too if the weather is cold.

Use a mask if you have allergies. If you will be mulching your leaves or if you have allergies, then you may want to wear a mask over your face. This will help to protect you from breathing in the dust and allergens released as you rake and mulch your leaves.

Terry Penney