Garden Tools: A Safety Primer

How to keep yourself safe and maintain your gardening tools.

Proper Storage of Tools
A hoe or spade left lying around can easily cause an accident. Proper storage of tools not only makes them last longer, but can also prevent injuries. If there are children around, store garden knives and other hazardous tools and materials in a locked cabinet.

Otherwise, hang tools up whenever possible. For small tools, use a pegboard and hooks or a row of nails hammered into the wall. Use a barrel or sturdy hooks to store rakes and other large tools. When hanging large objects, make sure the nail is fastened securely into a stud, not just dry wall. Turn any pointed or sharp objects, such as pitchforks, toward the wall. Make sure anything hanging on the wall is out of the line of traffic.

Power Tool Safety
Here are some helpful tips to prevent accidents with power tools:

1. Before using a power tool, read the instructions carefully. Some tools come with several different blades; pick the right one for the task at hand, and check that it is properly attached.

2. Never refuel gas-powered equipment while the engine is hot. If the engine has been running, let it cool for at least 10 minutes before refueling.

3. Don’t use electric gardening tools such as mowers, posthole diggers and hedge trimmers after a rainfall or heavy dew. The wetness increases the chances of electrocution. For extra protection, even on dry days, make sure your tools are plugged into an outdoor outlet equipped with a built-in circuit breaker; use a three-pronged extension cord designed for outdoor use.

4 Wear the proper clothing and protective gear — sturdy shoes, gloves, long pants and safety goggles when using power garden tools. Do not wear loose clothing that can get caught in spinning parts. Also use earplugs when working with noisy equipment.

5. Always use two hands when operating a hedge trimmer. Don’t trim where you can’t see if you hit metal or another object — a fragment could come flying back at you. If you are on a ladder, make sure it is steady and secure before turning on the trimmer.

6. When using a brush cutter or weed whip, wear heavy boots or shoes to protect your feet. Don’t operate the machine close to fences or other objects.

Lawn Mower Safety
Here are some tips you should follow when you take out that lawn mower:

1. Before you mow the lawn, clear it of toys, rocks, garden hoses, sticks and debris.

2. Keep children and pets away from the mower while it is still in use.

3. When using a walk-behind mower, mow across slopes and keep all four wheels on the ground at all times.

4. When using a rider mower, mow up and down slopes. Avoid starting, stopping, or turning your riding mower while you are on a slope.

5. The blades are not the only dangerous part of a mower; the muffler gets extremely hot. Stand directly behind the mower to avoid the line of fire from the discharge chute.

6. Try not to leave power mowers, tillers and other such equipment outdoors. Rain and heat can damage motors, making them less safe to use. If you don’t have a toolshed or garage, cover the equipment with a waterproof tarpaulin or sturdy plastic.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest