Gardening can be dangerous if you are careless, in a rush or are tired. Make safety a priority by taking some simple precautions to be safe in the garden.
Injuries can happen at any time, in any place. This includes your garden. However there are ways to ensure that injuries are few and not life-threatening when they do happen. All you need is some common sense advice on how to protect yourself from the most common injuries and dangers in the garden.
Please note that this post is not intended to contain medical or first aid advice – if you are injured you may need to visit the emergency room or call for an ambulance. You or someone else at home will need to make that judgement call.
Always have a phone close by especially when working by yourself, so that if needed you can call emergency services yourself.
Gardening will often involve heavy lifting, often in awkward positions. This can cause all kinds of stress on your back, legs, shoulders, neck and arms. So a few tips on how to minimize back injuries so you can continue to work in your garden instead of being in agony.
- lift with your legs
- get help lifting heavy items
- use lifting straps that use your whole body to lift heavy objects
- avoid twisting while holding onto a heavy object – this is a hard one to avoid when moving soil with a shovel, but try your best
- lift less mass; this may involve partially emptying a planter or bag of soil, only shoveling up a partial load of heavy, wet soil, not watering a planter or pot just before having to move it
- rather than having to carry something heavy, use a wheelbarrow, dolly or even just a heavy tarp to drag items around the garden
- I came across this idea for a simple way to create a sled for this purpose: Pullit DIY
- take the straightest line you can when carrying something, but be aware of obstacles
- sometimes it is better to take the longer route if it is safer, but you might have to take a break halfway through though
It is very easy to accidentally stab your feet with a pitchfork or spade, drop something heavy onto your feet or run over your feet with a lawnmower.
Therefore when doing any heavy work make sure to wear appropriate footwear, even construction footwear with steel toes and other reinforcing is not overkill.
Wearing just sandals or being barefoot is dangerous in these situations. Too often I see people mowing their lawns in flip-flops. Not only are your feet unprotected but there is usually not much grip so you might slip and fall.
You also need to watch out for long thorns from some plants such as a fire thorn bush – these can easily pierce through shoe soles or sides.
Cuts and scrapes
There are a lot of sharp tools used in the garden. Of course there are tools such as pruners, hedge shears, knives and sharp hoes. But there are also other non-gardening specific tools such as screwdrivers or pliers that can injure you if they slip out of the fastener you are tightening or loosening.
And keep in mind some plants are also prickly such as roses, some vegetable plants (my eggplants this year have some long nasty spikes on the stems and flower bases), firethorn, thistles and raspberry and blackberry bushes.
The best way to minimize injuries such as this is to wear thick gloves. But even then you might not be invincible and need to still be careful. Rose thorns can pierce through the thickest leather gloves.
And not all work can be done wearing gloves. Tasks such as tying plants to a trellis, pulling weeds out of tight spots, seeding and anything involving very fine motor skills requires you to doff the gloves. In these situations you just need to be more careful and make sure you have a first aid kit nearby for the inevitable.
Power tool injuries
These can be the worst injuries, often requiring emergency room visits and unfortunately in some cases causing death. Prevention here is key, so make safety when working with power tools your priority.
- Never operate power tools when you are tired, sick, under the influence of drugs or alcohol or if the situation you are in just doesn’t feel right
- Read the manual and make sure you know how to properly use the tools
- Never defeat safety mechanisms or remove guards
- Know where your blade will cut before you turn on a saw and ensure you keep an eye on where the blade is cutting throughout the duration of the cut
- Keep your hands away from the path that a saw is taking or from the underside of a part that you are drilling or screwing into
- Wear eye protection to protect from flying debris
- Wear ear protection to protect against noise – this is especially important for prolonged power tool use
- Use a dust mask or respirator if creating a lot of dust and especially if you have allergies
- Wear rubber boots when power washing
- Keep your tools well maintained and blades sharpened
- Keep children and pets away from the work area
- Clean up your work area to keep it tidy
- Don’t use electrically operated tools in the rain/snow
- Avoid mowing your lawn in the rain or just after a rain – not only can it damage your grass but it can be dangerous as the grass will clump up and possibly jam your lawnmower and the wet lawn will be very slippery
- Ensure anyone helping you follows the above safety tips; if they refuse to, refuse their help
Weather safety tips
For hot weather
- Wear sunscreen and proper sun blocking clothing
- Wear a hat
- Stay hydrated, ideally with just water
- Take breaks and avoid working when the sun is the hottest, usually in the afternoon
For cold weather
- Dress warmly but in layers
- If you are getting too warm remove a layer but put it back on if you stop working before you cool down
- Be careful of ice so that you don’t slip and fall
- Watch out for frostbite on exposed flesh
- Limit your time outside; you may find that you will get tired quicker as your body tries to stay warm
For windy weather
- Avoid being outside if you have a lots of trees, especially tall ones, in your garden or a neighbour’s garden; a branch could come down and hit you
- Make sure everything is secured – having items blow around could injure someone and/or cause property damage
For rainy weather
- Mainly you need to watch your step – it is easily to slip and fall especially in grass or on wet leaves
- You should avoid getting wet and cold – wear appropriate rain gear, gum boots and a rainproof hat
- As mentioned above don’t use any electrically operated power tools
Do you have any additional tips on how to stay safe or have an injury story that you learned a valuable lesson from? Share in the comments below so everyone can benefit.