Kitchen Gardening

Top 10 Safety Precautions for Garden Construction Projects

A gentle reminder about safety precautions we should take before tackling construction projects in the garden.

Photo by BarelyFitz under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

Now here’s a boring subject, right? You’ll get no argument from me; safety is no where near the top of the “fun gardening subjects” list. I also realize that much of the following thoughts are just basic common sense. But please don’t skip it — this stuff is really important and it’s so easy to become relaxed to the point that we tend to skip some (all?) safety precautions. This can make us very, very sorry later.

Before we get to the top ten, let me share a true story with you. Last summer we added some iron fencing to the little barnyard where the rabbits and chickens are kept. At one point, my husband realized that he needed a tool from the garage and leaned one of the iron panels up against a tree while he went to retrieve it.

With an uncanny sense of timing, my hens (which had been a half an acre away only moments before) chose to walk by the panel. They didn’t actually touch it, they were simply passing by. At that exact moment the panel fell over and hit my Rhode Island Red, Penelope. She died almost immediately.

It was terribly sad — we’d had her for three years and raised her indoors when she was young! My husband felt horrible because if he had just taken a moment to make sure they were in their little yard and out of harm’s way before he began, Penelope would still be among the flock. But he took a short cut because they were “way over there.” Some of you reading this won’t see this as particularly tragic and some of you will really get how badly he felt. But one thing is for sure — it could have been a lot worse.

So, I’m going to remind you to:

1. Look around before starting a project — What and whom is around you? Get the big picture.; is it a chicken or a child? Be certain that anything you saw off isn’t going to fall into something else, etc. People, especially small children should be cleared of the work area, as should all pets.

2. Sharp stuff — My friends, sharp or pointy things like cutters, knives, saws and the like don’t belong on your back pocket. And screws shouldn’t be carried around in your mouth.

3. Read directions/instructions — Manufacturer’s instructions for using tools and chemical labels are there for a reason (organic or otherwise).

4. Power tools — If you’ve never used a potentially dangerous power tool such as a skill saw, don’t turn one on until you know how to use it properly.  Keep all of your body parts away from a tool’s working parts (bits, blades, cutters) of power tools.

5. Loose clothing and long hair — Watch for dangling things like your clothing and hair; electric saws have a tendency to grab whatever is put before them. If you’ve had several beers or Mojitos, please don’t use power tools.

6. Wear closed-toed shoes — I don’t think that people realize how important their toes are until they break one (or three). Work boots or hiking boots are the best, but even tennis shoes are better than leaving your feet exposed with sandals or flip-flops.

7. Goggles — Whatever you do, please, please use safety goggles when your using any power tools, striking concrete or metal, and pruning trees and shrubs. I can’t stress enough the importance of protecting your eyes at all costs — they simply can’t be replaced.

8. Heavy gloves — Building can cause play all kinds of havoc with your hands. Cuts and splinters from wood, sharp tool edges, prickly plants are all everyday injuries that can be prevented with a pair of work gloves.

9. Disposable face mask — Use them when you’re sawing wood (sawdust) or using airborne chemicals.

10. Rubber gloves — Disposable, heavy rubber gloves are a must if you’re using chemicals or other toxins in order to avid chemical burns, etc.

I’ll bet that you knew all ten of those safety tips. How many of them do you actually practice? If this article saves just one chicken (or your big toe) then it will have served its purpose.

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