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21 June 2013

Safety Tips for Gardeners

We have all laughed at cartoons when someone has stepped on the end of a rake and hit themselves with the handle. However there are many more potential safety hazards in the garden - some of which I have listed below:-

1) Slips and trips This covers trips caused by uneven paving or loose slabs, or by items left lying around such as hosepipes, and slips due to slippery surfaces. Check your garden and try to minimise the number of trip hazards. Some areas may be fine when dry but become slippery when damp eg. timber decking. Some paving slabs may become slippery when they are covered in algae and may need washing with a pressure washer occasionally. Avoid the garden altogether when the ground is icy, though gravel paths don't usually present a hazard.

2) Electrical equipment Most of us use electrical appliances in the garden, such as lawnmowers, strimmers and hedge trimmers. If using items with a flex then you should be using a residual current device (RCD), which saves you from receiving an electric shock if you accidentally cut through the flex. These can be purchased for less than 10. Check for frayed flex and if you find any don't use the appliance until it has been repaired. If using an extension cable ensure that it is suitable for outdoor use. Also remember never to use electrical equipment in wet weather.

3) Tools Don't leave sharp tools lying around where they might accidentally injure other people. Also be tidy with your tools when you are working. It is easy to put something down and then happen to kneel on it by mistake. Even something that isn't sharp can hurt when you put your weight on it.

4) Working at height Don't try to work from a stool or other makeshift device - use steps, a ladder or platform. If using a ladder it should be sloping so that there is one foot out for every four feet up. There is an excellent HSE leaflet - Safe Use of Ladders and Step-ladders - which can be found on the internet and which covers all aspects of ladder safety. When working from a ladder always keep three points of contact with it, and do not over-reach to the side.

5) Lifting Many garden jobs require some lifting, whether it is moving bags of compost, laying paving slabs or moving containers or large plant pots. Try to lift using your legs rather than your back and avoid twisting while doing it. Sack barrows are very useful for moving items around the garden.

6) Power tools Take extra care if using a chainsaw or hedge trimmer and do not operate it above shoulder height. Make sure that you are working from a safe position, though it is difficult to keep three points of contact with your ladder when using both hands to operate your equipment.

7) Chemicals Make sure that any chemicals are safely stored in their original containers in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Petrol for lawnmowers etc. should be stored in an approved container away from any source of ignition.

8) Poisonous plants A small number of common garden plants can cause severe poisoning if eaten, though the most likely cause of problems is contact with the sap of some plants which may cause blistering of the skin, and in some people more severe effects. The RHS website has a comprehensive list of poisonous plants and their effects. You should find out if you have any of them in your garden.

You can help to minimise many of the above hazards by using the correct protective equipment such as stout footwear when mowing, and with eye protection as well when strimming. Using gloves wherever possible will protect your hands from all sorts of hazards, while rubber-soled shoes will help to keep you upright in slippery locations.

This is just a basic outline of some of the safety issues you may encounter. If you have children or pets in your garden you may need to look again at some of the solutions given above and make them more robust.

I hope you enjoy safe and trouble-free gardening.

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