Phew! It doesn’t matter what the time of year, there always seems to be something to do in the yard, doesn’t there? Summer’s the high point, of course, but even in fall and winter, there are lots of chores to do – plus some additional dangers to beware of.
The fact is that there are as many potential hazards in the yard as there are inside the home, and sometimes they are far less obvious and visible. A classic example is the existence of buried utility lines. These things – gas, water, electric, TV cables and such – can criss-cross our properties and, even if we remember about them, they’re not always where we might guess them to be. The answer, of course, is to contact the utility companies if you plan to dig deeper that a spade or so of dirt. They’ll happily let you know for free, and even mark out, the route of their lines.
Another invisible danger in the yard is poisonous plants. Okay, so they’re not invisible but you may not know they’re harmful. Some can cause irritation on contact; others are only dangerous if eaten but, in some cases, these can be fatal. And that needn’t even mean stuffing a pile of leaves into your mouth.
If you handle poisonous plants with your bare hands, you might still pass the harmful substances onto food you subsequently eat. The rule here is to know what’s poisonous in your yard, to wear gloves and to take steps to protect others from coming into contact with them – or even removing them. Cornell University has a list of such plants here.
Think of several other things you might have in your yard that, while perfectly visible, you either might not spot or realize their danger. For example: cracked or uneven paths and driveways, wooden plant stakes bristling with splinters, wet leaves and other debris, rotting tree limbs, barbecue grills placed too near walls, fences and plants, and dangerous chemicals stored insecurely. It’s worth spending some time identifying these, then maintaining vigilance in future.
A further hazard you might not immediately think of is leaving electrical appliances outside. Rain, morning dew or even a wet pair of hands that come into contact with appliances can transmit a powerful electric shock. And, of course, never try to retrieve an appliance that has fallen into water until you’ve unplugged it or cut off the power.
Power appliances generally and manual tools represent a real hazard in the yard and should always be securely stored away when not in use. It’s easy to leave them where they are while you go do something else, but when that happens, they become an obstacle over which you or others might trip, or they fall into the young hands too inexperienced to know how to handle them.
For smaller items, you can wear a tool belt or carry a garden toolbox, which should always remain in sight. If you develop a habit of safeguarding your tools, you’ll eventually do it without thinking, thereby protecting yourself and others. Encourage children too to put toys away after they’ve finished playing.
And, talking of kids, we can’t end this note without underlining the warning about swimming pool dangers. That’s a whole subject in itself but the basic rules are to have a lockable means of preventing access to the pool area and ensuring an adult is present at all times it’s in use.