Keeping yourself safe in the garden

For once, good weather is forecast for this bank holiday, and lots of us are looking forward to a weekend of gardening. But each year in the UK gardening injuries send thousands to A&E and one of the ‘spikes’ in such injuries occurs in spring when there’s a spell of good weather. So it’s worth thinking about keeping yourself safe in the garden so you can spend your bank holiday admiring your weed-free borders rather than in the A&E waiting room.

Powertools and lawnmowers are responsible for a large number of gardening-related accidents but, surprisingly, these happen more often when people are cleaning the tools (and cut themselves) than during use of the machines. Even more surprisingly, a high proportion of accidents are due to the apparently innocent flowerpot, with people dropping them, trying to lift over-heavy pots, or tripping over them.

Cuts and grazes are usually just an inconvenience, but occasionally can become dangerous. If a cut becomes infected seek medical advice as you may need antibiotics. If you’re a keen gardener and you’re not sure whether you were fully immunised from tetanus as a child it’s worth checking – you can get a booster if necessary.

Powertools and lawnmowers can be heavy and awkward, and this can lead to strained muscles and ligaments. I’m a huge fan of the new generation of battery operated powertools. Not only are they lighter, quieter and easier to handle, but there’s no cable to trip over or cut through. (You can read more about mulch mowing lawnmowers here.)

Injuries can also happen when you do tasks and use muscles you’re not used to. Even if you’re quite fit, if this is your first time out in the garden this year take it easy – gardening tasks use different muscles and it’s easy to push yourself too far. Another source of problems is repetition. Don’t do anything in the garden for too long – change activities. Ie, if you’re digging repetitively, stop, do something else, then come back to it. If anything starts hurting, change position or just stop and have a cup of tea instead!

Furthermore, if you wouldn’t ask someone else to do it, don’t do it yourself. Would you ask a dear friend to balance precariously on a chair in order to reach that overhanging branch? No? Then don’t do it yourself! A professional tree surgeon will do a better job, more safely, and will probably cost less than you think.

Personally, I don’t use pesticides or herbicides. But if you do use them, follow the instructions carefully and store them away from children and pets.

Now, don’t get me wrong: gardening will improve, rather than damage your health, and gardening can help us both mentally and physically. So here’s to a safe and happy weekend of gardening (and don’t forget the sunscreen!)


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