Yard Work Safety Tips

Yard work might be described as “back breaking,” but that shouldn’t be taken literally. In the past 10 years, emergency rooms reported almost 3.2 million injuries related to lawn care. Put down the pruning shears and read on for health and safety tips for landscaping.

We’ll cover everything you need to know to prepare for yard work safely and reduce your risk for the most common landscaping accidents.

1. Power equipment safety

With great power comes great responsibility – and power tools are no exception. With proper maintenance, protective gear, and using the right technique, you can greatly reduce your risk of harm. With all tools, it’s important to stay vigilant and not use them if your focus or energy is compromised.

Pro Tip: Store your garden tools in a safe way. It’s more common than you might think to step on a stray rake or get hit in the head with a poorly-stored spade. Make sure you know where everything is and that it’s securely in place.

String trimmer

A string trimmer is a great way to clean up your lawn’s edges fast, but it can cut your skin or fling debris in your direction, causing lacerations and splinters.

Tips for string trimmer safety:

  • Make sure there are no toys or fallen branches that could get kicked up.
  • Make sure all children and pets are at least 50 feet away from the area where you’re working.
  • Don’t start a gas trimmer inside. Carbon monoxide can collect and become lethal.
  • Start a gas trimmer on solid ground to keep yourself stable.
  • Keep the cord on electric string trimmers out of the way so you don’t trip over it or slice it with the trimmer.
  • Only use a string trimmer when you’re standing on the ground and keep it below waist level.
  • Cut away from yourself to avoid getting hit by the thing you’re cutting.

Chain saw

Chain saws are obvious safety hazards when landscaping, but sometimes they’re the best tool for the job. With proper precautions, you can feel confident operating one.

Tips for chain saw safety:

  • Wear snug-fitting clothing, sturdy shoes, gloves, and a helmet with a face shield. Cut-resistant chaps are also a great way to protect your legs.
  • Check that your chain saw is in good condition. The cutting chain should be sharp, tensioned, and oiled.
  • Stand on solid ground when starting the chain saw.
  • Kickback usually happens when you cut with the tip of the chain and bar. Opt for the middle.
  • Never saw while on a ladder or with the saw above your shoulders.
  • Consider calling an arborist for trees wider than 6 inches in diameter.

Pressure washer

Although a pressure washer doesn’t have any sharp edges, it has the power of 30 to 80 times that of a garden hose. That’s enough force to put a groove in a wood deck, so one can imagine the kind of damage the concentrated water spray can inflict on a human body.

Tips for pressure washer safety:

  • Don’t use a gas-power pressure washer indoors.
  • Avoid zero-degree nozzles (nozzles that condense all of the force into one pinpoint). Opt for nozzles with 15, 25, or 40-degree settings.
  • Wear goggles, sturdy shoes, and long pants.
  • Don’t use a pressure washer while you’re on a ladder.
  • Be extra careful on wet surfaces that may be slick.
  • Turn the pressure washer off and drain the excess water from the wand before changing out the spray tip.

Lawn mower

Many injuries are caused by one of the most common pieces of equipment: your lawn mower. From sharpening the blade to dodging debris, walk-behind and riding mowers can cause a lot of harm. Check out our full guide to mower safety.

Tips for lawn mower safety:

  • Always release the mower’s bail lever (the “deadman” control) before reaching down to clear a branch out of the way.
  • Don’t mow the grass when it’s wet.
  • Wear work gloves when performing any maintenance tasks on your mower.
  • Make sure your mower’s off and the engine is cold before working on it, and be sure to disconnect the spark plug or remove the battery.
  • Add gas outdoors, not inside a shed or garage.
  • Mow up and down slopes with a riding mower to reduce the risk of it tipping over. Mow parallel across slopes with a walk-behind mower so it’s easier to push and control.

Hedge clippers

Hedge clippers are one of the most convenient inventions of the modern age. Gone are the times of sore forearms from hours spent with a pair of pruning shears. However, this sharp and powerful tool can be dangerous if used incorrectly.

Tips for hedge clipper safety:

  • Wear hand, eye, and ear protection.
  • Don’t pour fuel into a running trimmer or trimmer that’s still hot.
  • When adding fuel, use a funnel or a flexible hose to pour it in safely.
  • Use both hands to hold the hedge trimmer.
  • Keep your right hand on the throttle when operating.
  • Exercise caution when near windows.

2. Dress for success

Clothing and protective gear can go a long way in preventing injuries of all kinds — from minor cuts to major slips and falls. Although it may seem annoying at first, things like gloves actually allow you to work outside for longer periods of time (ever had to stop because of a blister?).

Tips for dressing for yard work:

  • If you’re using a mower or other loud equipment, use hearing protection like ear muffs or ear plugs.
  • Wear gloves to prevent skin irritation (especially when working with chemicals like fertilizer), improve your grip on tools, and protect from splinters and blisters.
  • Wear eye protection like safety goggles.
  • Wear sturdy shoes that provide good traction when operating power tools.
  • Put on a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to keep your skin protected from the sun.

3. Call before you dig

If you’re itching to get a drainage or irrigation system in place, it can be tempting to break ground as soon as possible. It’s essential to know what you’re digging into, though, because you could strike a power or gas line.

The solution? Simple: Dial the Call Before You Dig hotline at 811. You’ll get access to city plans, including the location of any underground utilities. When you call, you’ll give them the address of the site, exact location on the property, and what kind of project you’re completing. It takes a few days for your request to be fully processed.

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