Spring yard and garden work could mean trouble if you don’t take the proper precautions. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that 135,000 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms last year for injuries associated with power lawn and garden tools, including lawnmowers.
Injuries often occur because of improper use, improper safety apparel, failure to heed safety instructions and owners’ manuals, inadequate maintenance of tools, and mechanical problems. Often, the victims of these accidents are children who are unaware of any danger and are playing in the area where power equipment is being used. When using any garden tool, CPSC has these safety tips:
- Dress appropriately for the work environment: Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts to provide some protection from thrown objects; wear close-fitting clothes and don’t wear anything that could get caught in moving parts, e.g., loose jewelry; wear sturdy shoes with slip-resistant rubber soles; wear eye protection (even a small piece of grass in the eye can cause a painful eye abrasion); wear heavy gloves when changing, sharpening, or cleaning blades; wear hearing protection when using motor-driven equipment.
- Walk around the area in which you will be working before starting lawn and garden work, and remove any objects that could damage equipment or cause injury or property damage. Objects such as sticks and stones, metal, glass, and wire can break bones and cause other severe injuries when thrown from lawnmowers and other equipment.
- Keep children and pets indoors away from power equipment. Children move quickly and are attracted to mowing and other power equipment activity.
- Be sure that safety devices on the equipment are in place and functioning properly before starting work.
- Unplug electric tools and disconnect spark plug wires on gasoline-powered tools before making adjustments or clearing jams near moving parts.
- Be sure power tools are turned off and made inoperable if they must be left unattended. This will prevent use by children.
- Handle gas carefully. Remember never to fill gasoline tanks while equipment is operating or when equipment is still hot. Wipe up spills. Store gas in an approved container away from the house. Finally, never smoke or use any type of flame around gasoline.
- Never let young children operate power lawn and garden equipment. Teenagers should only be allowed to operate outdoor power equipment if they possess adequate strength and maturity to do so safely. They also should be supervised by a responsible adult.
- Never work with electric power tools in wet or damp conditions.
- Be sure that extension cords are in good condition and are the proper size for the electrical current capacity of the tool.
- The best protection against electric shock is to use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). GFCIs come in four varieties, including a type that can be used as part of an extension cord and a type that can be wired into your home’s electrical system.
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