A list of yard safety tips can never be complete. No one can warn us against unforeseeable circumstances, nor are even the most cautious of us immune to Murphy’s Law. Besides, what one person regards as an “obvious” danger will catch another quite unawares. When all is said and done, the best yard safety tips are those that are broadest in nature, and whose aim is to inform our overall approach with a healthy trepidation.
In other words, your best defense against injury is common sense:
• Follow directions that come with equipment and other products. This can mean reading the dreaded manual — I sympathize with you!
• Learn to ask questions. For instance, when you buy something at the hardware store, ask the salesperson for specific safety tips regarding the use of the product.
• Assess the danger potential of an action before you take it, because it’s better to be safe than sorry.
• Don’t be in a big hurry. It’s better not to get your yard chores done than to risk injury.
With the broadest of yard safety tips out of the way, let’s move on to the main purpose of this column: to provide a list of some of the most useful yard safety tips of a more specific nature.
Yard safety tips involving water:
• Don’t leave small children unattended around open water features such as garden ponds.
• Make sure swimming pools are covered when not in use if you have small children.
• In landscaping around swimming pools, always put safety first.
• Unless you want to try using BT or mosquito fish to kill mosquito larvae, I suggest installing a pump in water features. In this age of West Nile or Zika virus, it’s important to keep the water moving, since mosquito larvae breed in standing water.
• Installing landscape lighting is advisable in general, but especially around water features, which present a particular danger at night.
• Roll up garden hoses properly after use so they don’t become tripping hazards.
Yard safety tips for using chain saws and hedgers:
The key to operating chain saws and hedge trimmers safely is to clear obstructions out of the way prior to starting up the engine, maintain your balance and stay focused on what you’re doing. Chain saws, in particular, can be incredibly dangerous devices. The advice given below regarding the use of chain saws should be considered just a beginning in informing yourself about how to operate a chain saw safely. Seek hands-on guidance from someone in the know.
What to wear
• Safety glasses
• Steel-toed boots
• Tight-fitting clothing (long pants and a long-sleeved shirt)
• Helmet, when performing chainsaw work on large trees
Operating chain saws and hedgers safely
• Plant both feet firmly on the ground when cutting.
• Avoid making cuts while standing on a ladder: leave the aerial acrobatics to professional tree services.
• Be aware of your center of gravity: don’t overreach.
• You shouldn’t be raising the machine up above shoulder level; doing so will cause instability.
• Shut off the engine prior to removing branches stuck in the teeth of your machine.
• With chain saws, always be conscious of the possibility of kickback.
Power equipment safety: String trimmers
While not heavy equipment, you need to respect the damage that string trimmers are capable of causing.
• Prior to start-up, check for any damage caused by past usage, fasteners loosened through vibration, or fuel leakage.
• The key to operating string trimmers safely is achieving a good form and maintaining it consistently.
• It’s easier to operate string trimmers with the proper form if you stay balanced in your footwork. Don’t over-extend your arms, which could cause you to lose your balance.
• Likewise, don’t use string trimmers (or mowers) when the grass is wet, lest you slip.
• Fatigue can ruin your form. As you get tired, you tend to get sloppy in your trimming approach. Using a shoulder strap for your trimmer can help cut down on fatigue.
• Swing the trimmer in such a way that the arc of your swing won’t end up bringing the rotating string head back in the direction of your body. Maintain the cutting head at an angle of about thirty degrees to the ground.
• The tip of the cutting string should be doing the cutting.
• A slower, measured swinging motion is safer than a faster, unrestrained motion.
• Keep the string head below waist level as you swing the trimmer.
Heavy equipment safety: Garden tillers
• Have your utility lines marked, so that you’ll know where not to dig (in fact, do so even if it’s only with a shovel that you’re digging). In our area simply dial 811 “Call Before You Dig” to reach a local representative, who will initiate the process of having the utility companies mark the lines for you.
• Never clean dirt off the tines while the machine is running.
• While small garden tillers aren’t too difficult to control, the larger ones can be real beasts! Exercise particular caution if you have to rototill on an incline: many injuries have been incurred from large garden tillers falling onto their operators.
Lawn mowers safety tips: Operating walk-behind mowers
• Check the lawn first for objects that shouldn’t be there: bottles, stones, etc. Exercise similar caution when using lawn edgers. Propelled objects cause many lawn mower-related injuries.
• Check that lawn mower guards and shields are functional.
• Set wheel height prior to starting the engine.
• If you’re using a bag attachment, turn the lawn mower off prior to removing or re-attaching the bag. Better yet, when using mulching mowers, there’s really no need to use a bag at all.
• In summer, mow in the evening for the sake of your grass but, for your own sake, early enough that there’s still plenty of light by which to see.
• Mow only when the grass is dry, to reduce risk of injury through slipping.
• Very steep slopes are dangerous to mow. Consider an alternative to grass in these cases, such as growing ground covers like Blue Rug juniper, Asian Jasmine or Purple Winter creeper.
Until next time…Happy Gardening!!
Send your landscaping and gardening questions to Jimmie Gibson Jr. at http://www.absolutelybushedlandscaping.com or in care of the Prosper Press at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jimmie is the owner of Absolutely Bushed Landscaping Company. He is a resident in Prosper. His landscaping and gardening column runs every other week in the Prosper Press.