Garden Safety Guidelines and Tips
General Garden Safety Guidelines
Thousands of accidents occur in gardens every year and statistics show that all age groups, irrespective of gardening experience, are involved. Almost all of these accidents are avoidable and gardening will be as safe as any other leisure activity so long as a few basic precautions are taken.
Unless you are very fit or manual work is an everyday activity, take plenty of time with strenuous jobs such as digging or pushing a cylinder lawnmower. Take frequent breaks to do something more leisurely. Never set yourself a massive task like digging the entire, making a determined effort to finish it in an afternoon come-what-may — you could end up with muscular pain for weeks afterwards.
Wear stout gloves to protect your hands from thorns, splinters and rough or sharp materials. Wear sturdy shoes or boots at all times, preferably with reinforced toe caps. Never do any gardening in bare feet or wearing open topped footwear. Don’t strip off down to sunbathing attire when gardening in full sunshine, unless your skin is well tanned, since you can easily spend much longer in the sun than you think.
Additional safety garments should be worn for particularly hazardous activities. When cuttingslabs with a bolster and hammer, for example, protect your eyes with plastic goggles. Wear rubber gloves when handling chemicals and don’t spray on a windy day. If some wind drift is unavoidable wear a face mask.
Tidy up after each operation and never leave tools lying about to trip over. Keep a watchful eye on children and pets and don’t allow them to play where you are working, especially if you are using mechanical or power tools.
Using Ladders Safely
- When moving a ladder, rest it on one shoulder and lift it by the rung just below your normal reach. Find the correct balance before moving.
- When erected, a ladder should stand at a 75° angle. If, for example, the ladder reaches 4m up a wall, it should stand 1m from the wall to give the correct 75° angle. Extension ladders with a closed length of up to 4.5m (15ft) must be overlapped by two rungs; longer ones by three or four rungs.
- Ladders over 3m (10ft) tall should be fixed either at the top or at the bottom. Lash them to secure positions — never to a pipe or gutter. Alternatively, ask someone to stand on the bottom rung to steady the ladder.
Hedge Trimming Safety
When trimming a tall hedge, work off a scaffold board supported y two step ladders to trestles. Position the steps as close to the hedge as possible and on firm, level ground. Boards 38mm (1-1/2 in) thick can span 1.5m (5ft); boards 50mm (2in) thick can span 2.5m (8ft).
Garden Safety with Hand Tools
Take your time and do not rush jobs — accidents happen much more often when you hurry.
Hold secateurs firmly in the palm of your hand, getting a good grip before you makecuts. Different sized models are available to suit your particular hand size — choose the right one to avoid getting blisters or pinching your skin between the pivot or spring mechanism. Use a pruning saw to cut large stems — never struggle with secateurs since you will blister your hand and strain the tool. Wear gloves if your skin is soft or if you are pruning thorny plants. Secure the safety catch on secateurs when they are not in use.
When using shears to cut long grass, check first that there are no electric cables or other objects concealed in the way, then cut carefully and methodically. Take similar care when using a scythe, and make cutting strokes away from yourself to avoid injuring your legs. Wear long sleeves and gloves when dealing with coarse weeds which may include nettles and brambles.
Ensure that the blades of all cutting tools are closed together when not in use. Tree pruners are dangerous if the blade is left open against the counterweight of the lever handle — you could lose a finger while handling them.
When digging with a garden fork, place the prongs on the ground first, then push into theusing your foot. Never stab the fork into the ground — you could put it through your foot.
Do not leave a rake lying on the ground with its prongs pointing upwards — if you tread on the prongs the handle may catapult into your face. The same is true for garden forks.
Garden Safety with Power Tools
Used correctly, electricity is a safe power source, but careless use can burn, paralyze or even kill. In the event of a break in an electric cable, you will be safe-guarded from shock if an earth wire is securely connected to the equipment — colour-coded green, or green and yellow striped. Many garden tools are double insulated, however, and need no earth wire. Check the manufacturer’s specifications before wiring or re-wiring power tools.
Extension cables must be in good condition with no cuts in the outer casing, and be as short as possible, free from kinks and absolutely dry. When using cables stored on a reel, unroll them to their full length before plugging in power tools — heavy electrical loads cause coiled cable to get hot and create a fire risk.
Ensure that the mains plug contains a fuse of the correct rating —if in doubt consult a competent electrician. Use a residual-current circuit breaker adaptor at the power point to provide extra safety from electric shocks if your main fuse board does not incorporate an overall circuit breaker.
Never plug several tools into the same socket, or join cables together with tape — use properly connected extension leads. Don’t use power tools in wet conditions or drag the cable through water. If there are several people in the garden, keep the cable away from paths where they may be trodden on or crossed by wheelbarrows or vehicles. If the cable pulls taut while you are working, switch off the tool immediately — it may be caught in a door or snagged on a sharp surface.
When using an unfamiliar tool for the first time, read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before plugging it in. Do not wear loose clothing when using tools with rotating or oscillating parts, and tie up long hair which may get caught in moving parts. Ensure that the chuck is tight and that the chuck key has been removed before starting an electric drill, and don’t lay it on the ground until the chuck has stopped rotating.
Put the mains cable across your shoulder when using a power lawnmower or hedge trimmer to reduce the risk of cutting through it by mistake or tripping over it. Never run over a cable with a lawnmower, and take special care to avoid running over your own toes, especially when using a `hover’ mower or working on a slope. Always wear protective footwear — modern mowers won’t slice into tough leather, but you could lose a toe in an accident if you are not adequately shod.
Garden Safety with Water
Adults are unlikely to find water a hazard in the garden, except with regard to the use of electricity. Young children, however, can drown in even quite shallow water.
Encourage children to play away from ornamental ponds, swimming pools or water butts. Use strong, rigid wire mesh to cover all expanses of water if you have small children — green-coated types are fairly unobtrusive. Always keep the top of a water butt or tank covered with a strong lid — which is preferably locked in place.
Garden Safety with Chemicals
Store chemicals — pesticides, fungicides, weedkillers, disinfectants, fertilizers, fuel oil and petrol — out of reach of children. A cupboard under lock and key or a high shelf in a garage or shed is ideal. Never store chemicals in a hot place such as a greenhouse where they may catch fire or give off toxic fumes.
Flammable liquids such as petrol and oil should be stored in metal cans — plastic ones are suitable only for short-term carriage of flammable liquids — and the quantity restricted to no more than a couple of gallons. Preferably keep them in a brick or concrete garage, which will help to contain an explosive fire, rather than in a timber shed.
Mix up only as much solution as you will need for one application. Do not store diluted chemicals.
Always keep chemicals in their original container so that they are accurately labelled — most chemicals are sold with clear instructions on the label for their correct use and how to deal with an emergency. Never put a chemical in an unmarked bottle — or worse still, in an incorrectly labelled container such as an old lemonade or squash bottle.
Wash out thoroughly all equipment after using chemicals. Dispose of any left-over solution safely by tipping it down an outside sewerage drain — not a rainwater soakaway drain. Do not tip chemicals on to the soil. If no suitable drain is available, empty the chemical into a deep hole in the garden away from any plants, ponds or watercourses, and fill in with soil. Take old oil to your nearest fuel-oil garage for safe disposal. Wash your hands after handling any chemical.
Garden Safety with Bonfires
Keep children and pets away from a bonfire and never leave it unguarded. Position it away from fences, sheds or overhanging plants. Burn only small quantities at a time — large bonfires easily get out of control, especially in hot weather. Don’t use petrol to start a fire as it is explosive. If newspaper and a match prove inadequate, a little paraffin can be added, but light it safely at arm’s length or with a taper.
Garden Safety with Paths and Patios
Lawns or sand-pits are the safest places for children to play — concrete, rough paving and brickwork can cause painful cuts and grazes.
Apply moss-killer regularly to steps and paths. Keep overhanging branches pruned back to prevent constant water drips and shade, which encourage slippery moss and algal growth. Sweep leaves off paths and steps.
When trimming a tall hedge, work off a scaffold board supported by two step ladders or trestles. Position the steps as close to the hedge as possible and on firm, level ground. Boards 38mm (1-1/2in) thick can span 1.5m (5ft); boards 50mm (2in) thick can span 2.5m (8ft).