Follow these simple precautions to take care of your yard — and yourself.
Working outside can be a breath of fresh air for your physical and mental health. Just remember to use sharp tools and heavy machinery safely — even if you’re a lawn and gardening pro.
“Many of the most common tools we use in the yard, like lawn mowers, saws and hedge clippers, can cause serious injuries,” explains Luke Sullivan, DO, an emergency medicine physician at Geisinger. “If you’ve used a tool hundreds of times, your familiarity with it can make you less likely to follow the necessary yard work safety measures that prevent injuries.”
By taking a few precautions, you can spend more time enjoying the beauty of a well-kept yard and less time nursing an injury to your green thumb.
How to prevent common injuries outside
The equipment you use to keep your yard looking great is the biggest hazard you’ll face. Here’s how to protect yourself:
1. Inspect your equipment
Before starting your mower, saw or weed whacker, check to make sure the fuel lines and electrical connections are secure. Also look for loose bolts or parts that could fly off once the engine starts.
2. Wear proper safety gear
Use eyewear and gloves when working in the yard, especially when trimming bushes, to avoid eye injuries from clippings and sticks. And don’t forget about your ears — wearing earplugs can help prevent hearing loss from the deafening noise of your power tools.
3. Dress the part
Choose close-fitting clothing that won’t get caught on branches and equipment. As tempting as it is to break out the shorts, long pants are a better choice to help protect your legs from potential cuts and scratches.
“Always wear proper shoes when working in the yard to protect your feet and toes,” adds Dr. Sullivan. “Never wear sandals or go barefoot while mowing.”
Whenever you’re spending time outdoors, be sure to wear sunscreen of at least SPF 30 to help protect your skin.
4. Never fuel or touch a hot engine
Fuel up before you start the job. If you run out of fuel in the middle of your work, let the engine cool before refueling. Hot engine parts can ignite gasoline and cause severe burns. Never touch parts of a lawnmower you’ve used recently.
“The exhaust and muffler on lawnmowers get hot enough to cause third-degree burns,” says Dr. Sullivan. “These types of burns can damage all layers of your skin and may affect muscle and bone, too.”
5. Keep kids away from equipment
Even if they’re eager to help, it’s best to keep young kids away from your lawn mower. No child under 16 should operate a riding mower, and no child under 14 should operate a push mower.
“Passengers on riding mowers and bystanders are more likely to be injured than the person doing the mowing,” says Dr. Sullivan. “Keep your kids at a safe distance while you’re mowing and never let them ride with you.”
6. Scan your lawn for debris
Before starting work, walk around your yard to look for rocks, sticks, toys and gravel. These objects can become projectiles when hit by a spinning blade.
7. Use a broom handle
If a blade on your clipper or discharge chute on your lawnmower gets jammed, never use your hand to clear away obstructions. “More than 20% of lawnmower and yard injuries happen to the hands and fingers,” says Dr. Sullivan. Instead, use something like a broom handle to fix the problem and keep your hands safe.
8. Don’t work in the rain with power tools
Rain and electric power tools don’t mix. If the area you’re planning to work on is wet or damp, allow it to dry out before starting your project.
Taking a few minutes to review proper safety techniques before starting a job will help keep your lawn looking great while keeping you injury free.