Autumn is here and with that comes the annual clean up of leaves. As the weather becomes colder, the leaves fall from the trees and need to be raked and disposed of properly.

Leaves can pose several different dangers after they have fallen from the trees. Leaves can be slippery, especially when wet. This can cause slip and fall issues. They can also pose driving dangers when they cover roadways. Surprisingly, leaves can also present fire hazards when they gather in piles. Never park over a pile of leaves as some car exhaust systems remain hot and can ignite piles of dry leaves.

Leaves can also clog gutters and other water collection systems. This can cause flooding issues throughout the fall and winter. Also, the use of a ladder is typically required to clean out home gutters. This presents another danger when using a ladder to perform fall cleanup. In recent years, there have been reports of over 150,000 hospitalizations per year resulting from improper ladder use during leaf cleanup.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers the following safety precautions to help prevent any injuries:

  • Make sure the weight your ladder is supporting does not exceed its maximum load rating (user plus materials). There should only be one person on the ladder at a time.
  • Use a ladder that is the proper length for the job. Proper length is a minimum of 3 feet extending over the roof line or working surface. The three top rungs of a straight, single or extension ladder should not be stood on.
  • Straight, single or extension ladders should be set up at about a 75-degree angle.
  • All metal ladders should have slip-resistant feet.
  • Metal ladders will conduct electricity. Use a wooden or fiberglass ladder in the vicinity of power lines or electrical equipment. Do not let a ladder made from any material contact live electric wires.
  • Be sure all locks on extension ladders are properly engaged.
  • The ground under the ladder should be level and firm. Large flat wooden boards braced under the ladder can level a ladder on uneven ground or soft ground.
  • A good practice is to have a helper hold the bottom of the ladder.
  • Do not place a ladder in front of a door that is not locked, blocked or guarded.
  • Keep your body centered between the rails of the ladder at all times. Do not lean too far to the side while working.
  • Do not use a ladder for any purpose other than that for which it was intended.
  • Do not step on the top step, bucket shelf or attempt to climb or stand on the rear section of a stepladder.
  • Never leave a raised ladder unattended.
  • Follow instruction labels on ladders.
  • Always carry a phone, especially when working alone.

Not all of the chores associated with fall cleanup pose threats to life and limb, but it is best to be prepared and to think with safety in mind! Remembering these tips can go a long way in ensuring a safe and enjoyable autumn season and preventing the wrong kind of “fall.”