Several years ago I worked with a pre-teen who had severed a finger tendon while attending a pumpkin carving function. He slipped and fell, hand outstretched, onto a knife that was resting on the floor by a carved pumpkin. Every year, in addition to these types of accidents, hand surgeons repair tendons, nerves and arteries caused by pumpkin carving injuries.
Don't let an accident or injury ruin your Halloween fun. Treat yourself to these ergonomic tips for pumpkin carving & Halloween safety. Just common sense - no tricks involved!
PUMPKIN CARVING SAFETY
- Plan to carve the pumpkin in a well-lit area.
- Place a newspaper on top of the carving surface to catch the pumpkin innards. Just roll it up and throw it away once you have scooped out the goop. The pumpkin pulp is slippery and could cause falls if it gets under foot.
- Make sure that the pumpkin, your hands, and all tools and knives are clean and dry so that the hands do not slip down the blade.
- Take your time and enjoy the process.
- Keep sharp tools off the floor and away from the busy hands of youngsters.
- Smaller children can help by drawing the face on the pumpkin. They should not be performing the actual carving.
- Older children should be well-supervised if they are using tools or knives.
- Carving kits with serrated saws are available that improve carving safety. The serrated edge cuts easily through the pumpkin with less force required. These tools are smaller and more maneuverable than using a knife. Children should be well-supervised when using these tools as they can still cut and cause damage.
- The more force that is needed to pierce the pumpkin, the more likely that the blade will catch or slip - potentially cutting into the hand.
- The longer the knife, the greater the chance of the hand slipping or the blade piercing through the opposite end of the pumpkin potentially cutting a stabilizing hand.
- Cut in short strokes moving the cutting hand away from the body.
- Scooping the inside wall to about an inch thickness will improve pumpkin carving ease.
- Lighter colored pumpkins are usually softer and should be easier to carve.
- There are many ways to decorate pumpkins that do not involve carving. Have children paint on a face or glue on objects. Be creative!
Carving Tools & Tips
JACK-O-LANTERNS & FIRE SAFETY
- Clean out the pumpkin pulp thoroughly so that hanging, dried pulp does not ignite.
- When cleaning the pumpkin, make sure the bottom surface is flat to provide a stable surface for the candle.
- Place the candle inside of a glass candle holder to improve stability.
- Never leave a lit candle unattended.
- Do not use a lit candle in an artificial pumpkin. Artificial pumpkins are flammable.
- Instead of using candles, use battery operated lights or a glow stick inside both real and artificial pumpkins.
- Do not place Jack-O-Lanterns with lighted candles on the porch where a child's costume may come in contact with it.
MISCELLANEOUS PUMPKIN TIPS
- Coat cut edges of the pumpkin with petroleum jelly to seal the wound and make the Jack-O-Lantern last longer.
- Spray or rub the inside of the pumpkin with diluted lemon juice to retard mold.
- To perk up an older Jack-O-Lantern, soak it in a bucket of cool water for several hours.
- Sprinkle cinnamon on your Jack-O-Lantern for a seasonal smell.
- Turn on outside lights so that the path is well-illuminated for trick-or-treaters.
- Clear the path to the door to prevent trick-or-treaters from tripping - move garden hoses and other objects well out of the way.
- Check your pumpkin daily for rot. A rotting pumpkin can become slippery and potentially cause slips and falls.
Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing at the Hand Therapy & Occupational Fitness Center in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.
A few pumpkin carving treats available from Amazon.com.