How to be safe in the garden this summer

How to be safe in the garden this summer

Summer is the time for gardeners to get outdoors and enjoy the fruits of their labours – admiring the colourful flowers that they planted during the drab, grey winter months.

But dangers do lurk in the garden. According to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) figures from 2002, each year about 300,000 people require hospital treatment following accidents in the garden.

Gardeners’ employers – such as councils – have a duty of care to safeguard their workers’ safety by providing adequate safety training and equipment.

No win no fee solicitors such as Claims Direct can help people – including gardeners - who have suffered accidents at work through no fault of their own. 

They can also help people who have developed medical conditions because of their work – conditions such as Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome, which is associated with people working with vibrating machinery such as hedgetrimmers.

Ten most dangerous garden tools

Hedgetrimmers feature in the 2002 DTI study’s list of ten most dangerous garden tools. The full list is:

1.Lawnmowers (6,500 accidents each year)

2.Flowerpots (5,300) – often caused when people trip over them or injure themselves while moving them

3.Secateurs and pruners (4,400)

4.Spades (3,600)

5.Electric hedgetrimmers (3,100)

6.Plant tubs and troughs (2,800)

7.Shears (2,100)

8.Garden forks (2,000)

9.Hoses and sprinklers (1,900)

10. Garden canes and sticks (1,800)

How to be safe in the garden

•Hands - most accidents involve cuts so it can pay to wear gloves on your hands.

•Feet - wearing sandals might make you feel more summery but it does make your skin more exposed so wear a sturdy pair of shoes instead. Also, substitute trousers for shorts when mowing the lawn.

•Electrical equipment common sense – your employer should ensure that all the machinery you use has a residual current device (RCD) which cuts off the power immediately if a cable or flex is cut through. 

•Don’t use electrical equipment in wet weather.

•Lawnmowers – do turn off the lawnmower at the plug (not just on the machine) when carrying out maintenance work; this applies to other electrical equipment too. A lot of accidents happen when gardeners are cleaning the blades.

•Identify and remedy tripping hazards – are there loose paving stones in your garden? Has a hosepipe been left unravelled? The most common garden accident is a fall.

Former council garden worker Jenny Stansbridge, 30, realised the importance of using the right tools when she went on a safety awareness course. She said: “The course taught us that garden tools, unfortunately, haven’t got bigger as people have got bigger over the years. Spades and shovels should be hip-height so that you don’t have to bend down too much. If they’re not, back problems can occur.”

Jenny was off work for ten days once as a result of over-using a strimmer; an absence which emphasised the need for taking regular breaks while using machinery. The back problems she suffered also made her aware of the importance of regularly checking equipment. She said: “As machines get older they degrade and vibrate more.”

Working outdoors in a garden in summer can be a great job to have; one which makes you the envy of desk-bound office workers. Ensuring that you have the tools and knowledge of the trade to do your job safely can make you enjoy your work with even more peace of mind.