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Yard and garden safety

If you're not careful, everyday lawn tools and chemicals can cause serious injuries.

For some people, yard and garden work isn't really work at all. It's a chance to get outside, reconnect with nature and banish the winter blues. But while you're cultivating your green thumb, don't forget about safety.

Hundreds of thousands of people are hurt each year using yard and garden tools and products, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

Many of these injuries could be avoided by taking some simple precautions, according to ACEP, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and other experts. For example:

Lawn mowers

  • Read the manual so you know how to operate the equipment, where the controls are and what they do. Make sure all safety equipment is intact.
  • Fill the gas tank before starting the engine. Never refuel while the mower is running or the engine is hot.
  • Check the yard for twigs, rocks and other objects before mowing. Debris thrown by mowers can cause serious injury or death.
  • Wait until the grass is dry. Wet clippings can clog the mower, jam the blade and shut down the engine. If this happens, make sure the blade has stopped before clearing grass clippings.
  • Wear sturdy shoes with soles that won't slip (not sneakers or sandals—and never bare feet) to cut the lawn. Wear long pants to better protect your legs.
  • Keep children out of the area when you are mowing. Never allow young children to use the mower.
  • If you're using a walk-behind mower, push it forward, don't pull it backward. On a slope, mow across, not up and down.
  • If you're using a riding mower on a slope, avoid tipping over by mowing up and down—not across—the slope.
  • Never allow passengers on a riding mower.
  • If you're using an electric mower, reduce the chances of running over the cord and being electrocuted by cutting the grass nearest the outlet first, then moving away.

Weed trimmers and brush cutters

  • Clear sticks, stones and other debris before trimming.
  • Wear goggles to protect your eyes from thrown objects.
  • When using a brush cutter, avoid cutting close to fences, sides of buildings or obstacles. If the tool's metal blade hits one of these objects, it could ricochet and injure the operator or a bystander.

Pesticides

  • Always store pesticides in a locked cabinet or garden shed away from children. Teach children that pesticides are dangerous and should not be touched.
  • Read the label before using and follow all directions exactly.
  • Before applying pesticides, get children, pets and toys out of the area to be treated. Keep them out as long as the label directs.
  • Keep the Poison Control Center emergency phone number handy: 800-222-1222.

Get your body ready

Not all injuries are caused by power tools or poisons. Sometimes, doing an unfamiliar job or working too hard can take its toll. These tips can help you avoid strains and overuse injuries:

  • Stretch your back, upper legs, shoulders and wrists.
  • Use correct posture while you work. Alternate your body position and movements often.
  • Kneel—don't bend—when working close to the ground.
  • Avoid back strain by bending at the knees, not the waist, when picking up grass clippings or leaves.

Reviewed 3/29/2022

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