This time of year we spend a lot more hours in the garden. And with heavy jobs to be done, this is a good point to look at the dangers that we need to be aware of.
Of course, when thinking of garden safety the first things that come to mind are sharp tools and machinery, but there is much more that we need to consider…
So here’s my top-to-toe guide on garden safety:
Cutting overhead branches can be a pain both figuratively and literally. Wear a hard hat to protect your precious noggin when tree trimming, and avoid hoodies and scarves that can obscure your vision and get tangled in garden machinery. While filming for Love Your Garden I once walked straight into the side of a house because my hoodie slipped over my eyes!
The heat can also be a hazard. When the sun is beating down, wear a cap or a bushman’s hat.
Lastly, removing items from a cluttered shed can be even more dangerous than the garden work. Keep it organised – especially any high shelving.
You’re always up and down when gardening, so you have to be very careful when stooping suddenly – you don’t want to end up with a branch or cane in your eye.
I use old yoghurt pots as cane caps, so I’m protected when bending over. But if you are pruning, cutting, strimming, mowing or digging, safety glasses are a must. And again, your eyes are very vulnerable to particles when cutting overhead.
Nose and Mouth
The big danger here comes when spraying chemicals. Never spray on a windy day, and always follow the safety instructions if they advise wearing a mask. You can pick up a cheap nose and mouth mask at your local DIY store – so don’t skimp.
You would be surprised at the amount of damage you can cause over a long period using loud machines such as strimmers, mowers and shredders. Protect your ear drums with earplugs and/or defenders.
Wearing gloves is always a good idea when using anything from secateurs and shears to a mower, but at the very least you must take your time and not rush.
Never cut what you can’t see, and don’t put both hands into a hedge to prune. In many cases it’s not the hand holding the tool that gets hurt, it’s the other one! I’ve seen far too many shortened fingers over the years!
It seems obvious, but of course you need to be aware of lawnmower blades – make sure the engine is off or unplugged before going near them.
Lastly, always protect cuts and scrapes with a plaster or protective gloves. Keeping a wound clean is absolutely essential when rooting around in soil. You can pick up some nasty pathogens if you’re not careful, including tetanus.
Tough tops and trousers are important. Quality clothing can protect you more than you’d think.
And again, temperature is important. Don’t overdress if it’s a hot day, and don’t underdress if it’s cold and wet. If you are working hard on a cold day, be sure to head inside as soon as you finish to avoid a chill as your body cools.
Probably the most common source of chronic pain is back injuries, and they’re easy to incur in the garden. Make sure your back is straight and you take breaks. Lift with your knees and don’t be a hero – stay within your capabilities if you’re moving paving slabs or composts.
It may surprise you to know that there are as many back injuries from pulling off wellies as there are from digging! You can buy a v-shaped tool to help with that.
Kneeling pads or knee guards are the best way to protect your joints and make weeding or planting more comfortable. Don’t be afraid of getting down on your knees, though – it’s far better than risking your back.
Always wear the appropriate footwear. Wellies are fine for soft work, but if you’re paving or operating machinery then steel toe caps are the best. And be careful when digging – I’ve know people to gash their feet with a misplaced stroke of a spade.
It may seem like a hassle to go seeking out safety equipment between jobs, and you might not look your most fashionable with it on, but it’s far too easy to get seriously hurt.
At the very least, you might end up being out of action for a while. And what will happen to your garden then! So stay safe, and don’t cut corners.