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Best Ways to Avoid Accidents in the Yard and Garden

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Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

Something really dramatic happened to me a few summers ago that could have resulted in a front-page headline announcing, “Home Guru Crushed in Freak Accident in Pool.”

The article might end with a warning to readers that while most accidents happen at home, they can be particularly dangerous in the garden and yard.

Here’s the story. I was in the deep end of my pool doing my aqua-exercise routine that I had learned years ago at a fancy spa. Because I was a bit tired that day, having just driven home with my family from Cape May, I decided to wrap up my abdominal twists a bit early. That decision may have saved my life.

Emerging from the pool, I was heading toward my back door when suddenly I heard the sound of a heavy collapse just behind me, followed by an enormous splash. I turned around to see that a major limb from a dead tree near the pool had fallen directly into the deep end where my head had been bobbing less than 30 seconds before!

Having heard the earth-shaking crash, my wife Margaret ran out to see what had happened. Although I was shaken from the incident, I tried to make light of it by telling her, “I see another Home Guru column coming out of this!”

That old elm, having avoided Dutch Elm disease into maturity, died at least three years earlier, and I know I should have taken it down right away. But it offered a strange beauty. It had been entwined with old wisteria vines that bloomed abundantly each spring. It was probably the wisteria that killed it, but somehow, I thought that it would hold the tree up. Instead, a major part of it was pulled down, nearly crushing me in the process. A lesson learned about sacrificing beauty for safety’s sake.

We all know that most accidents happen in the home, but many happen outside.  I’ve had my fair share of them, from accidentally disturbing a wasps’ nest and sustaining multiple stings, to tripping on a vine along the ground (the damned wisteria again) and wrenching my back when I hit the deck.

According to the National Safety Council, there are as many as 33,000 fatalities each year resulting from accidents outside the home and as many as 230,000 serious accidents that require visits to hospital emergency rooms.

Statistics also show that most outside accidents happen from using tools improperly, with most related to lawn mowers.

Here are some safety tips for outdoor activity offered by various manufacturers of lawn mowers and other equipment.

  1. Prepare in advance of mowing by walking around the area to remove any objects like sticks, glass, metal, wire, stones and string that could cause injury or damage to equipment. Nails and wire are the most hazardous items that can be thrown by mowers, capable of killing bystanders.
  2. Children should never be in the yard when mowing the lawn and should never ride on the mower. More than 800 children are injured each year riding mowers.
  3. Children must be kept away from power equipment because many suffer burns to hands and arms when they touch the hot muffler of running engines.
  4. Be sure to know how to operate the equipment, where the controls are and what they do. Just recently I bought a new drill and started operating it before I had read the instructions, only to realize that there were new controls on it that I didn’t know how to operate. Definitely dangerous.
  5. Dress appropriately for outside jobs. Proper footwear is most important. Long pants and long-sleeved shirts are preferable – and a deterrent to those nasty deer ticks. Protection for the eyes and ears is needed as are heavy gloves. Also remove any jewelry that can get caught in moving parts.
  6. Never work with electric power tools in wet conditions. For protection against being electrocuted, a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) should be used. There are both plug-in types and those that are part of some extension cords.
  7. Handle gasoline carefully. Never fill gas tanks while machinery is operating or when equipment is still hot. Do not fuel equipment indoors.
  8. Something that few people think about: loose garden hoses are an invitation for an accident. It’s best to have them stored in a hose reel.
  9. To prevent back injuries, it’s advisable to use a wheelbarrow for heavy stones. I found the use of a sturdy two-wheel dolly perfect for moving extremely large rocks from one location to another.
  10. And when using ladders, they should be firmly set or held by a garden helper.

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t leave the massive limb filling up my pool as a reminder of God’s protection of me, although I considered it.

A writer and publicist, Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® affiliated with William Raveis Real Estate. If you would like the services of The Home Guru in finding or selling a home, he can be reached at or 914-522-2076.


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