Practicing Safety in the Garden

Take cautionary measures with all types of gardening gear.

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On the surface, gardening seems like a relatively safe endeavor. However, each year 400,000 people are injured while gardening, many of them seriously. Safety is a genuine concern in the garden, so take caution when using these gardening gizmos.

Lawn Mowers and Chainsaws

A lawn mower, with its blades swirling at a few thousand revolutions per minute, can be a dangerous device. Even though manufacturers include several safety features in their designs, 84,000 people wind up in the emergency room each year as a result of lawn mower injuries.

The most important step to take before you mow is to walk around your lawn and pick up sticks, stones and other objects that could become missiles when they come in contact with mower blades.

Wear a pair of boots, such as hiking or even steel-toed boots. Many lawn-mower injuries involve the feet, and sneakers simply don't offer enough protection from spinning blades. Sandals offer no protection at all. Injuries to the hands occur as well. As obvious as it may sound, don't ever stick your hand under the deck of a mower until you have shut it off and the blade has stopped turning.

Chainsaws can be extremely dangerous, so if you're even slightly unsure of your ability to operate one, even after reading the owner's manual from cover to cover, don't use it. Instead, call a professional.

Blowers and String Trimmers

Blowers and string trimmers can also cause injuries, the most common of which involve the eyes. Wear protective goggles when operating equipment to protect your eyes from flying objects. It is also recommended to wear ear protection to protect ears from the loud engine noise.

String trimmers, in particular, can hurl objects at amazing speeds, so pick up debris before you trim. Wear long pants to protect your legs.

Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters

The increasing popularity of garden tools powered by electricity, including chainsaws, has led to a whole new batch of safety concerns. If you don't have a ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, then get one right away, which costs about $15. You can either install it yourself, which is pretty easy, or have an electrician install it for you.

Or, for less than $30, you can get a GFCI that plugs into a power cord. A GFCI could save your life. It monitors the flow of electricity through a circuit, and if anything disrupts or changes the flow, like a faulty power cord, the GFCI will shut the circuit down before you get electrocuted. Now, you may still get shocked, but the GFCI shuts the circuit down so fast – in 25/1000th of a second – that you're not likely to be seriously injured.

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