Gardening Safety Tips

According to the National Gardening Association, two out of three American households take part in some gardening activity each year. Chores vary regionally but include: raking leaves, transplanting trees and shrubs, planting spring-flowering bulbs and perennials, removing dead branches from trees, controlling troublesome weeds, and lawn mowing. Whether you're a master gardener or budding amateur, keep these safety tips in mind.

Avoid overexposure to sun. Limit the time you spend working in direct sunlight by gardening during early-morning or late-afternoon hours. This way, you'll avoid the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. time period when the sun's rays are strongest. Protect your skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants instead of shorts, and a wide-brimmed hat. When skin is exposed, apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Heat stress can also be a risk; thus keep water by your side to remain hydrated. Remember to take frequent breaks by going indoors and relaxing in front of a fan.
Warm up. Cumulative injuries, such as tennis elbow or tendentious occur when people overextend themselves on a job they tackle only once or twice a year. Stretch your upper-body muscles before heading outside. For overwhelming tasks, enlist help from family members, take frequent breaks, spread the job across several days or hire professional help. Also, pulling weeds can result in pain. To prevent strains and sprains, consider the following:
Keep your back erect when working at ground level and when using long-handled tools, such as spades and rakes.
Bend at your knees and hips to lift objects.
Alternate or use both arms whenever possible.
Keep your elbows bent.
Don't rest your body weight on your elbows.
Grip hand tools lightly.
Work below shoulder level whenever possible. If you must work above shoulder level, perform the task for five minutes or less.
Be careful with power equipment. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 400,000 people are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year for injuries from lawn and garden tools. To prevent a mishap, read equipment-operating instructions and be aware of your surroundings. Consider the following when operating power tools:
Know how to operate equipment. Read the manual and follow all instructions.
Wear long pants, close-fitting clothes, sturdy shoes and safety glasses. Don't wear anything that could get caught in moving parts, such as loose jewelry. Tie back long hair.
Handle gas carefully. Fill up before you start - when the engine is cold.
Clear the area of rocks, twigs, toys and anything that could be thrown by mowing equipment.
Keep children and pets away from the area until you're finished. Never carry a child as a passenger on a riding mower.
Keep you hands and feet away from moving parts. Never work on equipment when it's running.
Don't point the blower nozzle of a leaf blower toward people or pets. Use a dust mask in a dusty or dirty environment.
Wear earplugs when using noisy equipment, such as leaf blowers or wood chippers.