Ten rules for staying safe in the garden
Pruning season is upon us and gardeners everywhere are taking their secateurs to their fruit trees, roses and shrubs.
But an afternoon’s pruning can be risky if you’re not careful. New Zealanders made 54,519 ACC claims worth over $36 million for gardening injuries in 2015 so have a read of these ten basic rules and make sure you don’t become another greenfingered statistic.
1. Use the right tools for the job, wear the right gear and keep tools sharp and well maintained. Be realistic about how experienced and fit you are. Call in the professionals for tricky jobs especially those using a chainsaw above shoulder height, up a ladder or tree, or where access is difficult.
2. Gloves give protection from scratches and provide a better grip. They’ll reduce blistering, fingernail damage, sunburn and prevent dirt or bacteria infecting cuts in your skin. Choose the right sort for the job
3. Safety glasses or goggles will protect you from branches snapping back in your face as well as flying debris. Some screen out UV rays too. Add a face mask to avoid breathing in sawdust and debris. Wear earmuffs or plugs when working with noisy power tools.
4. Wear good-fitting shoes or boots with non-slip soles appropriate for the scale of the job. Avoid open-toed sandals. Wear steel-capped work boots when using power tools.
5. Don’t use a ladder that is damaged or the wrong height. Ensure the base is secure, don’t over-reach or climb too high.
6. Keep small children and pets out of the way. Clear the ground around your feet or the base of a ladder. Pile pruning debris away from where you’ll need to walk. Think about where branches or trees are going to fall.
7. Be mindful of local fire regulations and seasonal fire bans before lighting up a bonfire of pruned branches. You may need a permit. Be considerate of your neighbours too – don’t light up when the neighbour’s washing is on the line. Keep the hose handy in case of sparks and don’t leave the fire unattended until it is completely extinguished.
8. Inspect mains and battery powered mowers, trimmers and shredders before use. Check cords and safety guards for damage or signs of wear. Prevent shocks with a grounded, insulated threeprong plug or a transformer and only use outdoor extension leads. Switch off tools before connecting to the power supply or changing attachments. Plan your path or cutting direction to avoid chopping through the lead. Wear appropriate protective gear and read the manual.
9. Treat chainsaws with respect. Get proper instruction from an experienced user or take one of the courses run by education providers for landscapers, lifestyle block owners, foresters and farmers.
10. Only professionals should work around powerlines. You may be liable for any damage to the electricity network or third parties if you undertake unauthorised tree trimming. Check the policy of your local lines company, they may cover the costs of tree maintenance in some cases.
Don’t fool yourself – some pruning jobs require an expert touch.