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By Kevin Damask, staff writer with the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired

WCB National Safety MonthAs the calendar flips to June, summertime pastimes such as grilling on the patio and outdoor chores will keep people busy in the sunshine. 

In honor of National Safety Month, Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired Education and Vision Services Director Jean Kalscheur and Low Vision Therapist Amy Wurf provide some key tips to stay safe outside.

“With porches and patios, be sure that the steps onto and off the staircase are even and marked to give either a visual or touch cue. If you use visual cues, consider using bright-colored duct tape along the edge of the step to better indicate the stair width and height,” Kalscheur says. “If you prefer touch cues, look for stick-on strips that feel like sandpaper or ridged plastic at your local hardware store. These strips can be placed on the edge of a step. When your toe or shoe feels that cue, you will know when it’s time to step down.”

Kalscheur notes it’s important to check the sturdiness of handrails leading to a porch or patio and make sure they are strong from the top to bottom step.

“Several people I’ve met have attached outdoor LED rope lighting just under the handrail,” Kalscheur says. “This provides good visual cues for dawn, dusk, or evening use of your outdoor area.”

For outdoor grilling, there are a few vital steps to keep in mind. Kalscheur shares some ideas for protecting your hands and face.

“Find a fireproof oven mitt that covers your hand and forearm. They are especially important when working with the charcoal or grill grate,” states Kalscheur. “Long-handled tongs or forks make it easier to get to the items being grilled. You really need to use both the oven mitt and long-handled utensils for proper safety.”

While some cooks can determine if grilled meat is done properly by touching it, the safest way to make sure meat is cooked thoroughly is to use a talking meat thermometer.

“Cook the meat about 10 degrees less than the desired final temperature; remove the meat from the grill, cover it, and let it ‘rest.’ The meat will continue to cook and the internal temperature will rise,” Kalscheur says. “Many grills have lids. Open the lid away from you to prevent all the heat, smoke, and possible steam from rushing toward your face.”

Amy Wurf says there are a few key things to consider when working outside, especially when using power tools.

“We always recommend safety goggles over glasses when using power tools, lawn mowers or weed-whackers,” Wurf says. “Glasses may not provide enough protection and could shatter.”

Wurf also says wearing a brimmed hat and sunglasses can help to keep items such as swinging branches away from your face and eyes.

Intense sunlight exposure in the summer can affect your eyes. When purchasing sunglasses, it’s best to look for brands that provide adequate protection from ultraviolet rays.

“Always look at the tag on the sunglasses, or have someone else look, to be sure you are protected from UVA and UVB rays from the sun,” Wurf said.