It may sound silly to think that yard work could be hazardous to your health, but some of the most commonly used equipment—such as leaf blowers, mowers, hedge trimmers, and weed whackers—are also the most notorious for kicking up debris, turning small stones, dust, and chewed up sticks into tiny projectiles exactly the right size to attack your eyes and nose. In fact, according to a Johns Hopkins University study, flying debris from power lawn equipment is the most common cause of yard work injuries. But virtually every outdoor accident is preventable if you have a few pieces of simple safety gear ready before you venture out to tackle all those leaves.
Five Easy Rules for Yard Work Safety
When you think about it, why should working in your yard be different than working in any other potentially dangerous workplace, such as a factory, construction site, or machine shop? All these workplaces have their own set of mandated safety rules and regulations, and top among them is the requirement that protective safety gear be worn consistently and correctly. Understanding that your backyard workplace has many different types of hazards, now is the time to ready the protective gear you’ll need to follow these five commonsense safety measures:
1. Always wear eye protection. Your eyes are your most important and most vulnerable sensory organs. That’s why it’s imperative that you wear proper eye protection every time you risk their safety. “Consumer Reports” took a poll in 2008 that revealed that most consumers do not take all necessary precautions before mowing and maintaining their lawns, but they emphasized that protecting your eyes is rule #1 — especially when operating power equipment.
2. Always wear hearing protection. Gas powered mowers and blowers make enough noise to damage your hearing over time. When a noise is too loud, it begins to kill the nerve endings in the inner ear. Prolonged exposure destroys these nerve endings. As the number of nerve endings decreases, so does your hearing, and the damage is permanent. There is no way of restoring life to dead nerve endings. The longer you’re exposed to a loud noise, and the closer you are to the source of that intense noise, the more damage is done.
3. Always wear safety goggles, gloves, and a respirator when working with lawn and garden chemicals such as pesticides, weed killers, and fertilizers. These three pieces of protective gear are imperative when mixing chemicals to ensure they cannot enter your body through your skin or respiratory system. Additionally, always mix chemicals away from children and pets, and in a location with proper ventilation and disposal supplies.
4. Always wear gloves and protective footwear. Yard work safety means wearing the right hand protection for the chore, as well as safe footwear. There are many different types of specially designed gloves available for specific tasks. Likewise, there are different kinds of footwear designed to protect the toes, arch, and ankle; as well as those that provide traction and insulation.
5. Always keep your power equipment in good condition and check that its safety features are intact and in place. Ensure your safety from injuries such as tripping and falling by using equipment (ladders, pressure washers, etc.) only in the manner in which they were designed and for their intended purposes.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that about 135,000 people are treated annually in hospital emergency rooms after getting hurt using a power lawn and garden tools. Read your owner’s manual before using equipment, and give clear instructions to children to stay a safe distance from any lawn equipment that is running. Always secure pets from the area while operating maintenance equipment as well.
We’ve all heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but that old adage is never more true than when you commit to taking your safety seriously during fall yard cleanup. Because hey, it sure beats a sharp stick in the eye.