A few years ago, I was rushed to the hospital for stitches after a drill bit entered my wrist while I was screwing together a fence post and I slipped. Other garden equipment can be dangerous even when it is not in use. For example, weed and hedge-trimming equipment has sharp blades that can cut if the blades are mishandled. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) data show that each year about 400,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries from lawn and garden tools. Don’t become a statistic like me.
The CPS is doing more than urging people to use caution and common sense when tending to their gardens, after all, the CPSC’s job is to make sure that the lawn and garden tools are safe. Clearly, consumers, too, must do their part. Gardeners need to always use lawn and garden tools responsibly and follow manufacturers’ instructions. CPSC recommends that consumers take the following precautions to prevent injuries from lawn and garden equipment:
- Dress appropriately for the task. Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts (to avoid injuries from thrown objects like rocks or sticks), close-fitting clothes and no jewelry (to avoid getting anything caught in moving parts), sturdy shoes with slip-resistant rubber soles, eye protection, heavy gloves (protects hands when changing, sharpening, or cleaning blades), and hearing protection such as ear plugs when using motor-driven equipment.
- Before starting up machinery, remove objects from the area in which you are working that can cause injury or damage equipment, such as sticks, glass, metal, wire, and stones.
- Make sure that safety devices on the equipment are in place and functioning properly before starting work.
- Never let a child ride or operate a garden tractor or riding mower, even if the child is supervised. Teenagers should only be allowed to operate outdoor power equipment if they possess adequate strength and maturity to do so safely. They also should be supervised by a responsible adult.
- Keep children indoors and supervised at all times when any outdoor power equipment is being used. Young children move quickly and are attracted to mowers and mowing activity, especially if they have been given rides on mowers before.
- Never assume children will remain where you last saw them. Be alert and turn off the mower if children enter the mowing area. Use extra care when backing up or when approaching corners, shrubs, and trees.
- Unplug electric tools and disconnect spark plug wires on gasoline-powered tools before making adjustments or clearing jams near moving parts.
- Be sure power tools are turned off and made inoperable if they must be left unattended to prevent use by children.
- Handle gas carefully. Never fill gasoline tanks while machinery is on or when equipment is still hot. Wipe up spills. Store gas in an approved container away from the house. Finally, never smoke or use any type of flame around gasoline or any gasoline-powered equipment.
- Never work with electric power tools in wet or damp conditions. For protection against electrocution, use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). GFCIs come in several models, including a portable plug-in type.
- Be sure that extension cords are in good condition, are rated for outdoor use, and are the proper gauge for the electrical current capacity of the tool.