Stay safe when working in the yard this spring

Published 4:56 am Saturday, January 15, 2022

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A day spent working in the yard is an ideal way to pass the time on spring and summer afternoons. A pristine landscape can add value to a property and instill pride in homeowners who put a lot of thought and effort into their lawns and gardens.

A sun-soaked day can make it easy to overlook potential threats when working in a lawn or garden. But safety precautions are of the utmost necessity when working in the yard, where the risk for serious injury is considerable. For example, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that, in 2016, more than 90,000 patients, including nearly 5,000 children, were treated in hospital emergency rooms for lawn mower-related injuries.

Lawn- and garden-related injuries can be prevented without going to great lengths.

  • Know your terrain before mowing. Knowing the terrain in your own yard can reduce the risk for accident or injury. This can be especially important when mowing the lawn with a riding mower.

“Most accidents occur when a person is pulling the lawnmower back,” City of Orange Public Works Service Division Manager James Lawrence said. “They back over their foot or someone is too close.”

Lawrence added it is important to be familiar with the machinery by reading the manuals.

“Know where the safety switches are and do not unplug them,” Lawrence said.

Adhere to manufacturers’ recommendations regarding inclines to reduce tip-over accidents that can pin riders beneath the mower. Study hilly areas of the yard prior to mowing so you know which areas are safe to mow with a riding mower and which areas are best mowed with a walk-behind mower. For greater control when using a walk-behind mower on an incline, mow parallel to the slope.

“Be aware of your surrounding and the direction of the discharge from the mower. It could discharge towards someone,” Lawrence said. “You could run over something you do not see. Rock driveways can sling rocks breaking a window or hitting someone.”

The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates more than 37,000 Americans suffer a power mower-related injury each year. At least 90 persons a year are killed in lawnmower related accidents.

“A dip in the yard can cause the lawnmower to suddenly be in the middle of the street,” Lawrence said. “It is important to be aware of traffic around you.”

  • Apply and reapply sunscreen. Sunburns may not require trips to the emergency room, but they can still be serious. In fact, the Skin Cancer Foundation notes that sunburn is a leading cause in the majority of cases of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer. The SCF recommends applying sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside to allow the sunscreen to bond to your skin. Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, and more often if you’re sweating excessively. The SCF recommends broad spectrum sunscreens, which protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Though a product with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 is acceptable when walking the dog or driving to work, the SCF advises using a product with an SPF of 30 or higher when engaging in extended outdoor activities like gardening or mowing.
  • Employ the buddy system. Use the buddy system when pruning tall trees or performing any tasks that require a ladder.

Should someone get injured during the project, the presence of another person ensures someone can immediately call for help. In addition, clearing land can be more difficult than it appears, and having at least two people to pull old shrubs or carry tree branches reduces the risk of injury.

Safety should be the utmost priority as homeowners prepare to clear land on their properties.

The Orthopedic Institute of Pennsylvania reports that more than 164,000 people are injured each year falling off a ladder. Ask a significant other or neighbor to hold the ladder in place while you climb up to reduce your risk of falling. If cutting large branches, cut them piecemeal to reduce the risk of being injured by heavy falling branches.

OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) reports that on average, there are over 100 landscape and tree fall fatalities every year.

“Some things are better left to experts,” Lawrence said. “There are so many things to check and so many things that could go wrong. But also make sure the company is insured and bonded. That protects you too.”

  • Inspect the property for insect hives. The OIP notes that the most common insect stings in spring come from bees, wasps and hornets. Homeowners who are not careful can inadvertently come across hives when doing spring cleanup, making them vulnerable to bites and stings. That can be very dangerous for anyone, and especially so for people with a history of allergic reactions to insect bites or stings. Inspect areas where you’ll be working to make sure insects haven’t put down roots in your property. If you discover any hives and are hesitant to remove them on your own, contact a local landscaping firm.

Lawn and garden accidents and injuries can be serious. Thankfully, accidents and injuries are easily prevented when homeowners take a few simple safety precautions while tending to their lawns and gardens.

“Be cautious and aware of your surroundings,” Lawrence said.