Safety Tips from the Heart of America Metro Fire Chiefs Council
Yard and Garden Safety
Before heading outside to garden or do other yard work, remember accidents
can, and do, occur at home. More than 173,000 injuries were associated
with yard and garden equipment in 2005, according to the National Safety
Council. But by taking some simple precautions, you can reduce the
chance of being injured while fixing up your yard.
As the weather becomes
warmer and days are longer, we spend as much time as we can outdoors enjoying
our backyards. Many of us tackle do-it-yourself projects and others are happy
just being outside. But, to be safe, it is important to remember the following
safety tips when working in the yard:
- Store pesticides and herbicides on high shelves or inside locked cabinets,
out of the reach of children.
- Garden tools such as rakes, spades, forks, pruning clippers, files and
metal plant stakes should not be left lying around when not in use.
- Check over all the equipment you plan to use to ensure it is in good
condition and that any safety devices are in place and work correctly.
- Never allow children to operate power lawn and garden equipment. Teenagers
may operate the machinery if they posses adequate strength and maturity,
and only under adult supervision.
- If you use chemicals in the yard, keep children away from the area.
- Make sure any equipment is stored properly.
- Ladders should be placed on their sides, and rakes should lie with the
- Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Clothing should be as close-fitting
as possible to avoid being caught in moving parts of equipment.
- Protect your eyes with goggles or glasses.
- Protect your hearing when using motor-driven equipment.
- Wear sturdy shoes with slip-resistant rubber soles.
- Wear gloves when changing, sharpening or cleaning blades.
Fatal accidents have occurred from riding lawn mowers, and the risk of an
accident is almost twice as likely with a riding lawn mower as a walk-behind
mower. The following are general instructions when operating a riding mower:
- Only allow the operator on the mower; never carry passengers.
- Clear the yard of people before mowing, and stop the mower if anyone
enters the area.
- Slow down before turning.
- Mow up and down slopes only. Mowing across should be done with a walk-behind
- Never leave the machine running. Turn off the blades, set the parking
brake, stop the engine and remove the keys before dismounting.
- Never mow on wet grass, which can decrease traction and cause sliding.
- Rider-mower models made within the last 20 years should meet the 1986
ANSI 871.1 standard, which incorporates several safety features not found
on older models.
Power Lawn Mowers
- When working on the mower, be sure the blade and all moving parts have
- When accessing the underside of the mower for inspection or cleaning, always
turn it so that the air-filter side of the mower is up. Otherwise,
oil will drain out into the air filter and the engine won't start. Also
detach the spark-plug wire so the engine won't start accidentally.
- Keep spark plugs clean, and have an expert adjust the carburetor. Check
air filters regularly, and clean or replace them when dirty. Use the gasoline
and oil recommended by the manufacturer.
- Be sure to regularly sharpen rotary mower blades, which operate on the
principle of a sickle. It's advisable to have an extra blade on hand so
a replacement is available when you detect poor cutting. Shredded or brown
tips of grass blades are an indication of a dull or damaged mower blade.
You can sharpen rotary mower blades with a grinding wheel and file, but
be careful not to destroy the balance. To determine which end of the mower
blade is out of balance, put a nail in the wall and hang the blade from
the hole in the center of the blade. File more off the blade on the heavy
- Excess vibration is an indication of a damaged blade, mounting, or crankshaft.
Frequently tighten the blade and engine mounting bolts, as well as any
other nuts, bolts and screws. Check mower wheels, bearings and axles for
wear and lubrication. If there are grease fittings, check them every couple
of months. Replace loose, wobbly wheels. Be sure to keep the drive mechanism
on self-propelled mowers in good working order. Check belts and gears for
wear and fit.
- After each use, clean the underside of the mower with a strong stream
of water. The metal deck can rust out if residue builds up. To reduce fire
hazard, keep the engine free of grass, leaves and excessive grease. Check
the grass-catcher bag for wear or deterioration, and replace when necessary.
At the end of the mowing season, be sure to drain the gas and follow the
winterizing instructions in your owner's manual.
- Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
- Keep kids and pets well away from the work area.
- Stay clear of the discharge area when the machine is running.
- Avoid loose-fitting clothes (they can get caught in the machine).
- Always wear gloves, ear protection and safety goggles.
- When filling the shredding chute, use the plunger provided to push material
into the shredding chamber. Never use your hands or anything made
- If the chipper/shredder becomes jammed, turn it off, disconnect the spark
plug and wait for all moving parts to come to a complete stop before attempting
to unclog the machine.
- Read your operator’s manual before using the chain saw for the
- Avoid the danger of “kickback” by using a chain saw (either
gasoline-powered or electric) equipped with an anti-kickback device mounted
on the tip of the guide bar.
- Never cut with the tip of the guide bar; always keep your body away from
the line of cut; always cut with the left arm straight and with firm grip
(thumbs and fingers encircling the chain saw handle).
- Never start cutting until you have a clear work area, secure footing,
and a planned retreat path from a falling tree.
- Use safety footwear, snug-fitting clothing, and eye, hearing, and head
protection when operating the chain saw.
- When operating an electric chain saw, use an extension cord marked for
- Never operate a chain saw that is damaged, improperly adjusted, or is
not completely and securely assembled. Be sure the saw’s chain
stops moving when the throttle-control trigger is released.
- Keep your chain saw regularly serviced. Competent service personnel
should perform all service work.
- Always bring the saw up to speed before letting the chain touch the wood. Once
contact is made, keep cutting at a steady speed; do not speed up or slow
down while cutting.
- Do not cut from ladder! Let professionals do it. Do not cut
above chest height as a saw held higher is difficult to control against
- Never operate a chain saw when fatigued, under medication, or drinking.
Trim N’Edge Trimmer
- Remove debris from work area.
- Keep people and pets at least 50 feet away when operating equipment.
- When using the trimmer as a lawn edger, wear safety protection. Do
not use an edger on graveled surfaces.
- If the edger strikes a foreign object, stop operation, disconnect the
spark plug wire, and inspect the unit for damage.
- Wear protective clothing with eye and ear protection.
- Do not operate if fatigued, on medications, using alcohol or drugs, or
- Keep firm footing and balance; don’t overreach; be sure lighting
conditions are adequate; keep your body away from the rotating string head
and hot surfaces. Be sure to keep the string head below waist level.
- Use trimmer only for weeds and grass.
- Inspect your trimmer for loose fasteners, fuel leaks, and a cracked or
chipped string head.
- Never start or run an engine inside a closed area; exhaust fumes can
- Remove the spark plug before any repairs.
- For two-cycle engines, follow fueling and premixing instructions carefully. Wipe
up any fuel spillage quickly to prevent fire.
Floyd Peoples, Chief Fire Marshal, Kansas City, Mo., Fire Department, 816-784-9100
Heart of America Metro Fire Chiefs Council, 9550 W. 95th St., Overland Park, Kan. 66212