Yardwork Safety Tips You Should Never Ignore

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By Katherine Gotthardt

It’s a lovely time of year to get your yard looking the way you want or for maintaining it. For many people, that includes using lawnmowers, grass trimmers, weed whackers and hedge clippers. Though these tools are convenient and do a great job helping you keep the yard tidy and attractive, there are certain safety guidelines that should never be ignored.

Lawnmower Safety

According to a report by Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance
System, on average, lawnmower accidents are responsible for the deaths of an average of 90 Americans annually. And Newsweek reports non-lethal lawnmower accidents hover around 35,000 per year. About 875 emergency room visits are from lawnmower accidents every day. All this is good reason to practice caution when using a mower from the start.

Clear the Area – Before you turn on your mower, whether it’s a walk-behind or riding model, check your lawn for anything that could become a projectile. That includes rocks, stray toys, sports gear or fallen branches.

Dress for Success – Even if it’s hot outside, skip the shorts and flip flops, and choose sturdy closed-toe shoes with good traction and long pants to protect your legs.

Protect Children and Pets – Keep young children and pets out of the yard while you’re mowing, and never let a child sit on your lap on a riding mower or tractor. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends that children be at least 12 years old before operating a walk-behind mower, and 16 years old before using a riding mower.

Remove Obstacles – If a stray branch gets in your way while you’re using a walk-behind mower, don’t just bend over and pick it up with the mower running, because you could easily cut your fingers on the mower’s blade. Always release the mower’s bail lever — also referred to as the “deadman” control — so the blade stops.

Avoid Falls – To avoid slipping, do not mow the grass when it’s wet. You won’t get a good trim with wet grass anyway; the blades tend to slide across wet grass instead of cutting it.

Take Caution on Inclines – Pay extra attention when you’re mowing on a hill. Refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations of how steep an incline you can mow on safely. If you use a riding mower, drive it up and down slopes to avoid it tipping over and pinning you underneath. With a walk-behind mower, it’s the opposite: mow parallel to the slope, not up and down, because it’s easier to control the mower when you’re not struggling to push it up an incline.

Maintain Your Mower – Good maintenance is key to keeping your mower functioning properly. If you are not having your mower professionally serviced, when performing maintenance on your mower, be sure to wear heavy-duty work gloves, work on your mower only when it’s turned off and the engine is cold and to only add gas when you’re outdoors. Your lawnmower owner’s manual will have other maintenance and  safety guidelines particular to your model. Be sure to read and follow them.

Grass and Hedge Trimmer Safety

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that power lawn trimmers and edgers have caused around 4,600 injuries annually that required medical attention. So just like with lawnmowers, it’s safety first. Some of the rules that apply to using mowers are the same for using grass trimmers, lawn
edgers, weed whackers and hedge clippers.

Wear the Right Gear – Although string trimmers and power clippers have a shield to deflect debris that might kick up, you’ll still want to wear gloves, protective eyewear, boots and long pants. All gas models and some electric models can be so loud that you’ll need hearing protection, too.

Check Your Surroundings – With trimmers especially, always check the areas you plan to trim for any loose items, such as toys, balls or fallen branches that can be kicked up by the trimmer. And make sure children, pets and other bystanders are at least 50 feet away from where you are working. If someone
wanders by, turn off the trimmer.

Work Outside Always – Never start a gas trimmer in a shed or garage, where carbon monoxide exhaust can accumulate. It can be lethal!

Keep the Cord Intact – When you start a gas trimmer with a pull cord, make sure the trimmer is on solid ground to keep it and you stable. And if you’re using a corded electric string trimmer, keep the cord safely out of the way so you don’t trip over it and fall, losing control of the trimmer. Also take care not to accidentally slice the power cord with the trimmer.

Wanting a yard that looks pristine is a great goal, but not at the expense of safety. It starts with knowing how to use the tools safely and correctly. Once you have that know-how, go out and enjoy turning your yard into a place you can be proud of.

Social Media Director for Prince William Living, Katherine Gotthardt (kgotthardt@princewilliamliving.com) is an award-winning writer, poet and author, as well as president of Write by the Rails, the Prince William chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. Learn about her work at KatherineGotthardt.com.

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