By Lois Hole
Gardens aren’t terribly dangerous places, but there is no place on Earth that is completely free of danger. Taking a few simple precautions to protect you and your family can provide a lot of peace of mind.
Everyone is sensitive to the ultraviolet radiation of the sun, so make sure that you’re properly prepared for the outdoors to avoid sunburns. A hat is essential. Long sleeves are best for sun protection, but the heat may make this impractical; if so, use sunblock with an SPF of 15 or higher. Apply frequently and generously, as sunblock can be diluted by perspiration. Sunglasses will protect your eyes, but only if they capable of filtering out at least 96% of UV radiation. Check the label! Make sure to protect yourself, too—adults can be sunburned just as seriously as children.
Lawn Safety Tips
Never mow in bare feet or reach into the exhaust chute to clear grass while the mower is running—this is just common sense, but I mention it again because too many people have lost fingers and toes to mower blades. I also recommend taking a quick walk over the lawn before mowing to clear any dangerous debris away; such debris can be hurled at high speed by a whirling mower blade. Believe it or not, I’ve seen people lifting up their mowers and using them to trim hedges and shrubs; this is not safe and should never be done. If you are using a riding mower, mow up and down slopes, not side to side; this way, you reduce the chances of rolling the mower.
Trimming can be just as dangerous as mowing; again, a pair of good shoes or boots can protect feet from the rapidly rotating nylon wire used in most trimmers. Eye protection should be worn, as well; trimmers have a tendency to fling gravel and soil around indiscriminately.
When applying herbicides to the lawn, read all instructions carefully. Some weedkillers are toxic and can cause skin irritation, so be careful when you spray.
Keep all pesticides out of the reach of children, preferably in a dark, dry, well-ventilated storage cabinet that you can lock. Read all package labels carefully and follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions to the letter. Make sure never to mix pesticides in containers
that someone might eat or drink out of, and mix the sprays outdoors for better ventilation.
The Right Equipment
Cost doesn’t always refer to money. Cheap equipment can be a real hazard in the garden, whether it’s a shoddy hoe that snaps off in your hand or a cheap garden tractor that breaks an axle. We’ve always been sure to buy the toughest, most reliable tools, even back when that meant we’d suffer a little short-term economic hardship. Using top-quality, well-maintained machines is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that your yard and garden are safe environments. Even if you’re buying something as seemingly simple as a lawnmower or hedge trimmer, quality tools can make an important contribution to your safety. Perhaps the best way to keep yourself and your family safe is to simply exercise common sense. If your instincts seem to be telling you that something you’re doing isn’t safe—follow them!