Blue skies, chirping birds, warming temperatures — April is prime time for getting home exteriors, yards, and gardens back into shape. But before you get started on your outdoor to-do list, make sure you take appropriate safety precautions.
Dress for the job
- Wear shoes or boots, not sandals, to protect your toes.
- Properly fitting gloves can not only improve your grip on tools but also help keep skin safe from blisters, sunburn, bug bites, poisonous plants, and chemicals.
- Hearing protection is a must-have when using loud equipment.
- Safety glasses keep flying objects out of your eyes.
- Bug spray keeps the pests away. Shower after use to remove the chemicals from your skin. And while you’re at it, take a minute to look for ticks. If you find one, gently pull it out with tweezers.
- Apply SPF to any exposed skin. Don’t be fooled by cloudy days; you can still get a sunburn.
- Take time to stretch and warm up before the work begins. Weeding, trimming, and raking are repetitive motions — change your posture or stance every few minutes and switch activities every 30 minutes.
- Lift properly by bending at the knees and hips and using leg power rather than bending at the waist and putting the strain on your back. Instead of carrying heavy or unwieldy loads, employ a cart or wheelbarrow.
- Drink water and take breaks in the shade. Even if it’s not hot or humid, yard work is exercise, and staying hydrated is important to avoid heat-related illness.
- Don’t drink and drive. Don’t text and drive. The same rules that apply to vehicles apply to power tools, including lawn mowers. Say no to distractions and anything that might cloud judgment.
Ready the tools
- Familiarize yourself with power tools and how they work. Read owner’s manuals (many are available online) and know about various switches, modes, and required maintenance.
- Check cords on tools and extension cords for cuts, cracks, and frayed wires — and do not use them if damaged. Also check the label to make sure you don’t use an indoor extension cord outside.
- Make sure tools are in the “off” position before plugging them in or unplugging.
- Use ladders safely: Set on a firm, level surface; never stand on one of the top three rungs; and use a utility belt to hold tools so you can properly climb facing the ladder.
- Call 811 before you dig. This notifies local utilities to check your property before you plant a tree, dig a trench, or set fence posts.
Protect loved ones
- Be sure children and pets are inside (or well supervised if out) while you work.
- Store sharp tools, weed killer, fertilizer, and other dangerous items in a locked cabinet out of reach of curious hands and mouths.
- Before allowing any child to operate a mower, sound judgment, strength, coordination, and maturity are necessary. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should have these characteristics and be at least 12 years old before operating any type of mower — and at least 16 years old to operate a riding mower. Be sure to educate and supervise kids as they learn how to safely use the equipment.