Staying Safe Around Sharp Tools In The Garden


The Law Of... staying safe in your garden

Following a horrific accident that saw a client suffer severe burns, Claire Roantree – Head of Serious Personal Injury – warns that other items in the garden could cause catastrophic injuries.

How to stay safe around sharp gardening tools

Gardening Tools

With many gardeners now tending to their garden well into the autumn months, garden tool safety is as prevalent today as it is during the spring.

Previous figures highlighted that gardening mishaps saw 87,000 people visit Accident and Emergency in one year, as such - it's clear that an area of the home that's usually associated with rest and relaxation can quickly become a source of injury without due care.

Whether you are working with a powerful chainsaw or the humble garden trowel, it is important that you always handle equipment carefully and you do not attempt anything that is beyond your capabilities.

When handling garden tools, accidents can happen because:

  • Due care is not taken while handling equipment
  • Jobs are rushed and the proper attention is not paid to the task
  • Awareness of the risks is lacking
  • Due planning and preparation is not done
  • An incorrect tool is being used for a task

Hand Tool Safety

Due to their usage for almost every task in the garden, hand tools are amongst the most common causes of injury in the garden. Injuries are especially likely when using equipment that features sharp blades, such as secateurs and shears.

With muscle injuries, such a back and shoulder pain, prevalent after gardening, even tools that may not have a sharp edge, such as trowels and shovels, can cause pain and discomfort if they are not used properly.

While many safety guidelines may seem logical, the following points can often be overlooked, despite going a long way to preventing injuries in the garden:

  • Always use thick gardening gloves, as this can prevent injuries from the tools themselves, as well as from thorns or pricks associated with the task at hand
  • Check the condition of tools before use, and if they have any damage or defects then avoid using them altogether
  • Use eye protection if the task at hand has the potential to cause debris or falling pieces of greenery
  • When using long handled equipment, ensure your back remains straight throughout usage
  • If you are required to bend down, ensure you rest regularly to avoid a back injury
  • Always keep tools out of the reach of children and ensure that they are locked away after use

Power Tool Injuries

While many garden power tools have safety functions to ensure that user injury is avoided, accidents can happen and it is important that instructions are followed whenever you use powerful equipment, which have the highest capability of causing serious injury.

Some larger gardens may require the use of high-powered apparatuses, such as chainsaws and shredders. Users of such tools should always ensure that they adhere to strict safety guidelines, as these powerful items have the potential to cause serious, and even fatal, injuries.

Gardeners should only use a chainsaw if absolutely necessary; if a safer piece of equipment could be used for the same task it is not advisable to opt for a chainsaw. Only those who have received adequate training and are competent using a chainsaw should use the tool.

Anybody that is handling a chainsaw should ensure that they wear the appropriate personal protective equipment and they follow all safety instructions supplied with the device.

When clearing a large garden, shredders can save time and money, however due to the motorised nature of this equipment, certain safety provisions should be made, namely:

  • Safety mask, gloves and goggles should be worn, due to the fact that many shredders split wood and can cause debris and dust to appear in the air
  • Ear defenders are advisable, even if a shredder is advertised as being 'silent'
  • Wear clothes that cannot snag, as items of clothing can become caught on branches as they are fed into the shredder
  • Ensure you know where the stop switch is, as many shredders come with a cut-off switch that can be hit in emergency cases

Devastating Effect Of Garden Injuries

Most safety guidelines for garden tools may seem like simple common sense and will be second nature to many gardeners; however accidents and mishaps can happen and with many items featuring sharp blades one slip of concentration can result in a devastating injury.

Describing the shocking nature of the garden injuries sustained by some of her clients, Claire says:

"Garden injuries are amongst the most distressing that I witness in the cases I handle. Most people associate their garden with relaxation, but with the number of dangers that can arise when caring for our green spaces this perception can soon change."

"Even the most experienced gardeners should ensure they approach even the most menial tasks with due care, as one lapse in concentration could cause serious physical and emotional trauma."

"It just takes one moment for an accident to happen and once somebody is injured in their garden they may never look at their relaxing space the same again."

"My advice is to always ensure you give the task at hand your full attention and ensure you follow basic safety guidelines, namely those that relate to protective gear such as gardening gloves."

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