Yard Maintenance Safety Tips

Avoid yard work injuries while you beautify your slice of paradise or perform landscaping jobs.

Who doesn’t want a perfect yard, or at least one that’s well maintained? Unfortunately, when it comes to using lawn maintenance and landscape equipment, accidents can happen if you’re not careful.

Whether you’re pushing a lawn mower or wielding a weed trimmer, taking a few basic precautions can help prevent many common yard work injuries.

General safety tips to remember

No matter what landscaping project you’re tackling, these yard work safety tips can help you use the equipment safety.

  • Get familiar with the user’s manual, especially if you’ve never used the tool or machine before. Every model is different.
  • Examine the equipment to make sure it’s in good condition. Look for damaged or missing parts.
  • Clear the work area of children’s toys, rocks, wire, glass, branches and any object that could become a projectile.
  • Keep your hands away from moving parts. Never put your hand into or under a machine when it’s turned on or when the blades are turning.
  • Steer clear of people and animals. Make sure all work with powered equipment is performed at a safe distance from bystanders, including kids and pets.
  • Never leave a powered machine unattended with the engine running.
  • Learn how to stop or reverse the machine in case of emergency.
  • Wait for good weather. Don’t use equipment in wet conditions.
  • Never refuel equipment when it’s hot. Let it cool first.
  • Take breaks and stay hydrated. In hot weather, heat exhaustion is a real threat.

Lawn care protective gear to wear

You may be tempted to do yard work in shorts and sandals, especially in summer, but resist that temptation. Here’s what to wear when mowing the lawn or tackling other yard maintenance tasks.

  • Long sleeves and pants (avoid loose-fitting clothing and jewelry that could get caught in a machine)
  • Work boots
  • Heavy-duty landscaping gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Hearing protection

If you’re working with a chainsaw or chipper, add:

  • Hard hat or helmet with face shield
  • Woodworking safety chaps or pants made of tough, cut-resistant material

Lawn mower safety tips

One of the most ubiquitous lawn care tools is also one of the most common causes of injury, making lawn mower safety paramount. In 2017 alone, more than 250,000 Americans were treated for lawn mower injuries.

It’s especially important to check the area for obstacles such as sticks and partially buried rocks when using a mower because items can get lodged in the blades. If that happens, never use your hands or feet to dislodge them. The mower blades may snap back and cut you. Instead, use a broom handle or another tool to clear the obstruction.

To avoid being hit by projectiles, make sure the mower’s deflector is in place.

When using a push mower on a hill, mow across the incline, not up and down it, so you don’t lose your balance or slide down the hill. On a riding mower, mow straight up and down to avoid tipping the machine, and go slow. Follow the manufacture’s angle limits, which can be found in the user’s manual or a label on the mower. If that information isn’t available, avoid mowing on slopes with an angle of more than 15 degrees.

Never allow passengers on a riding mower, and never attempt to clean the discharge chute with the engine running. Don’t mow wet grass.

Power washer safety tips

Power washers, aka pressure washers, are powerful tools that can cause severe injuries if not handled properly.

Avoid working on uneven surfaces, which can be more dangerous when wet.

Never point the power washer at anything other than the surface you want to clean, and use the right nozzle for the task. The narrower the spray, the more force it will deliver. Start with the widest spray nozzle and wash a test surface from about 2 feet away. Increase the nozzle size and distance until you find the right combination.

If the area to be cleaned is high up, use a power washer with an extension wand instead of climbing a ladder.

Tiller safety tips

Quality footwear with good traction is important when using a tiller. Boots will help you control the tilleras it cuts into the soil.

Change the settings on the tiller only when the engine is off. Call 811 before tilling to avoid hitting any underground utility lines.

Aerator safety tips

Aerators use spikes to punch holes in the soil and increase nutrient and water absorption. Walk-behind models can be adjusted to operate at a comfortable pace, but be mindful of slopes, and avoid grades of more than 25%.

To avoid injury and property damage, slow down when maneuvering around objects such as sprinklers, hoses and garden pots.

Hedge trimmer safety tips

Before operating the hedge trimmer, clear the hedge of loose sticks and check for electrical cables that may be hidden in hedges close to structures.

To avoid a hedge trimmer accident, start the hedge trimmer on the ground, holding it tight with one hand. Trim from the ground, never from a stool or ladder, and avoid overreaching. Cut with smooth, bottom-up motions to keep the trimmer at a safe distance from your body.

Weed trimmer safety tips

Eye protection is key when using a weed trimmer since the spinning plastic lines that tear through weeds can kick up debris. More than 42% of the 80,000 injuries caused by weed trimmers in the last decade involved the eye.

Inspect the area for any sticks and stones the weed trimmer could kick up and move them elsewhere. Confirm that the blocking guard is firmly attached, and start the machine on the ground. For gas weed trimmers, follow manufacturer guidance on the proper fuel mixture.

Keep the trimmer’s business end away from your body, and keep the cutting mechanism below waist height. Shut off the engine before putting the machine down.

Brush chipper safety tips

Brush chippers are loud and capable of ejecting wood chips at high velocity, so ear, eye, head and foot protection are critical.

Before starting the machine, make sure the hood that covers the cutting blades is closed and latched. Stand to the side of the machine when feeding materials into it. Feed materials butt-end first, and don’t overload the machine. Use a pole, broomstick or long branch to push debris into the hopper.

Auger safety tips

When using a powered auger, or post hole digger, call 811 before you start digging to make sure you won’t hit an underground utility line. Check that there is no landscape fabric or other loose material on the ground. If the auger shaft gets tangled in material, it could pull you in and cause an auger accident due to entanglement with the moving screw.

Dig a shallow pilot hole first, then place the auger in it. When using the auger, keep yourself braced in case of kickback. Don’t drill too close to a wall or other structure that kickback could throw you against. Lift and absorb the shock with your legs so you don’t overuse your back muscles. If you hit a rock or if the auger gets stuck, release the throttle right away. Dig out any obstruction before continuing.

RELATED: How to Use A Gas-Powered Auger (the Right Way)

Chainsaw safety tips

More than 36,000 people in the U.S. are injured each year by chainsaws, so proper safety gear and good decision-making are essential.

Make sure the teeth of the chainsaw are sharp and that the lubrication reservoir is full. Before you start the chainsaw and any time the chainsaw is not engaged, double-check that the chain brake is activated.

Kickback is the cause of many chainsaw accidents. To avoid it, make sure the chainsaw’s tip doesn’t come in contact with the wood or any small brush around your cut. Never extend the saw with one arm or reach out on one foot. Keep both feet on the ground and both hands on the saw, and cut at waist level or below.

RELATED: Chainsaw Safety: Gear, Tips and Techniques For Safe Operation

Accidents from lawn maintenance equipment can be life-changing. Whether you’re a professional landscaper or a DIYer determined to have the best lawn on the block, follow these lawn care safety tips for good results without a trip to the emergency room.

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