Spring Fever is Upon Us

By: Frankie Wood-Black, Safety Expert

On February 18, 2021, 73 percent of the United States was covered in snow. So as March is upon us, no one is going to blame anyone for having a bit of spring fever. And with spring fever, spring cleaning is not far behind. This annual event has an interesting history. Its origins may be linked to religious or cultural traditions, or it may be as simple as after a winter of being inside with wood fires and oil lamps a layer of soot may have permeated the house. Spring cleaning is just part of the culture.

Before you tackle those spring-cleaning tasks, you may want to take a minute or two to think through your activities to make sure they remain safe. As chemists, we know that improper mixing of chemicals can have serious consequences. How many times have we heard about toxic fumes due to the mixing of bleach with ammonia sending someone to the emergency room? But, are there other safety tips we should be aware of?

The National Safety Council (NSC) published the following safe spring-cleaning tips. Start your effort by decluttering. Clutter can be a tripping hazard or can mask other hazards. When using cleaning products, NSC recommends going mild and reading the label of the cleaning and disinfection products. By reading the label and understanding the products in use, you can better avoid improper mixing and being exposed to fumes (ventilation is your friend). The label will say “use the proper personal protective equipment.” Some labels may be more specific and recommend the use of a mask and may specify a type of gloves. Finally, you want to ensure that you are safely storing these products.

Slips, trips, and falls are potential hazards associated with spring-cleaning. Wet floors are slippery. When using a step stool or ladder, ensure the step stool and ladder are in good repair. The step stool and ladders should be on level surfaces and are properly positioned. When climbing a ladder, you want to maintain three points of contact (one hand and two feet or two hands and one foot), and you never want to be standing on the very top rung.

For many of us, we need to watch out for strains and sprains from overdoing. The NSC recommends getting a mop to avoid working on your hands and knees thus reducing potential strain injuries. Essentially, you want to use the proper tools for the job. Be conscious of your ergonomics. Think about how you are going to lift that box, or how are you going to move the couch to get to those dust bunnies hiding between it and the wall. Improper lifting or twisting can result in a back injury. Get help for heavy or bulky objects.

You need to take care of yourself as well. Spring cleaning is exercise. You may need to ease into it. But, you need to remember to stay hydrated, and take breaks. As the weather changes, you may not be as prepared as you haven’t acclimatized to new temperatures yet. So, watch out for heat related injuries. And, if you are doing outside chores, don’t forget the sunscreen!

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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