June is the time when most schools close for the summer, families picnic and take to nearby beaches, and when many individuals climb into their cars for a trip miles away to visit friends and relatives. We tend to be much more active as warmer weather approaches than we are when we hunker down in our homes during winter months. It’s no surprise then that June has been designated as National Safety Month. It’s not that we love our children less or take risks we wouldn’t at other times of the year, but summertime makes us slightly more carefree.
Each year thousands of individuals have heat-related illnesses, either during working or leisure hours. The body normally cools itself through sweating but sometimes with high humidity levels, sweating isn’t sufficient. A person can develop heat rash, cramps, exhaustion and even heat stroke. Prevention begins with water, rest and shade.
The National Transportation Safety Board has been examining methods of reducing the number of motor vehicle accidents that occur annually. Such ideas as reducing state blood alcohol levels from 0.08 to 0.05 or lower, requiring ignition interlocks for all offenders, increasing the use of high-visibility enforcement and more have been recommended. We may grumble, but it’s their way of keeping us safe and that’s a good thing.
We can do a great deal at home to reduce problems that arise by keeping emergency telephone numbers handy and actually showing other household members where to find them, installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, having a first aid kit available for scrapes and more serious injuries, and keeping guns in locked cabinets. We can initiate new household rules that no toys remain on staircases, that extension cords do not cross areas of traffic, that scatter rugs aren’t in areas where seniors might get tangled up and fall, and more. Frayed electrical wiring should be repaired at once and furnaces cleaned annually. Families should have an escape plan in the event of fire and a backup plan to be doubly safe. If the backup plan is through a window, there should be no air conditioner or other item preventing that space from being used.
Lawn mowers appear to be rather harmless pieces of equipment but thousands of people are injured each year from accidents – many of which can be prevented. The grass guard on the side of the machine should not be removed, since it prevents sticks and stones from being thrust with enormous force from the side of the machine and breaking windows or injuring a nearby pet or person. Ear protection and long pants should be worn for protection.
Hot tap water can scald anyone but seniors and children appear most susceptible. In fact, burns from hot water account for 100 deaths and approximately 1,500 hospital visits every year. Temperature gauges set at 140 degrees can cause a serious burn within three seconds, while gauges lowered to 120 degrees will take 10 minutes for serious burns to occur.
Gardening is both pleasurable and rewarding but attention should be paid to protect skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Sun blocks with an SPF of 15 or higher should be used several times throughout extended periods of outdoor exposure. Gloves can protect hands from cuts and skin irritations. Mosquitoes, ticks and bees may be present. Insect repellent containing DEET should be used, and pants should be tucked into socks to prevent critters from biting. Read labels on chemicals that may be used in the garden. Water or drinks with electrolytes should be on hand to keep a person hydrated; all this may appear to be excessive but it’s better to be safe than sorry. When it comes to moving rocks or digging, stress is place on both the back and heart. Try pacing yourself to rest, hydrate and tackle those long-overdue projects at a slower pace.
The bottom line? We are subject to accidents every hour of every day and need to do all we can to limit distractions, use equipment properly, and protect ourselves from injury. Pay attention to signs of any heat-related illnesses such as dizziness, headache and nausea, take frequent breaks, and enjoy the glorious month of June. But remember, put safety first. Your family and loved ones are important and they cannot do without you either. Stay safe.