Home Safety Council Home Safety Council
HomeAbout HSCNewsOur ProjectsPress RoomHome Safety Encyclopedia

Lawn and Garden Safety Tips

Electric Garden Tools

picElectric power tools should be grounded unless they are double insulated. Never carry a tool by its cord or yank the cord to disconnect it from the outlet.

Extension cords for tools such as trimmers and edgers should be the heavy-duty, outdoor kind. Unplug the power cord before you do any trouble-shooting on a tool that is jammed or won't start, and never walk away from a plugged-in-power tool -- even for a few minutes.

Always wear proper eye and hearing protection when using electric (or gas) garden tools.


Gasoline should be stored outside your home if possible, on a high shelf away from heat sources, in a labeled container approved for gas storage.

To transport gasoline, place a sealed and approved container in the trunk of your car with the trunk lid propped open slightly and drive directly to your refueling site. Don't store gasoline containers in your vehicle.

To refuel, take equipment outside and away from combustibles. Equipment should always be turned off and cool before you add fuel. Wipe up spills immediately and move the tool at least ten feet away from the fueling site before starting the engine. Never smoke when fueling or using gasoline-powered tools.

Power Lawn Mowers

Some people enjoy their grass-cutting routine, while others resent the recurring chore. Here are some tips to help make your power mowing as safe and easy as possible:

Wear safety glasses, heavy denim pants, and solid leather shoes to protect yourself from small projectiles that might kick out from under the mower. Over one million eye injuries happen in or around the home each year and more than 90 percent of all eye injuries can be prevented with protective eyewear. If your lawn slopes, try wearing golf shoes and baseball cleats for added traction.

Prepare your lawn by walking over it, checking for broken sticks (especially after storms), stones, toys, bottles, and cans (especially near the street) and anything else that could shoot out from under the mower or damage the blade.

Is your mower in good shape? When checking the blade, always remember first to pull the wire off the sparkplug to avoid accidental starting. The air filter should be clean, the sparkplug should be clean and not cracked, oil should be clean and (for two-cycle engines) properly mixed. Periodically check your tire treads for good traction, and make sure engine vibration hasn't loosened screws and bolts.

Completely fill the mower with 89 or 92 octane gas before starting, so you won't be tempted to pour gasoline into a hot mower when you're in the middle of the job. Even fumes from poured gas can ignite.

Riding mowers should cut a slope up and down, not from side to side, to avoid tipping laterally. Mowers that you walk behind should cut slopes from side to side, decreasing the chance that the mower will roll back toward you or that your foot will slip under it.

Play by the rules: never disconnect or remove safety devices such as automatic shutoffs or blade guards. The protection they offer is worth the occasional inconvenience.

Never reach under the mower unless it is turned off and the blade has completely stopped turning. If you can arrange to mow when the grass is dry, you'll have less trouble with wads of grass clogging the blade.

Power mowers are noisy; be sure to wear proper hearing protection to help prevent hearing loss. Remember, hearing loss is the number-one disability in the United States and noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable.

When you're mowing near the street, you may not hear oncoming cars. Use your peripheral vision, and never step into the street to turn the mower. Cut a couple of strips parallel to the street first, then begin your pattern.

Don't let people stand or sit anywhere near where you're mowing. Be especially careful to keep small children away: They are likely to run to a parent who is mowing, and you might not hear them coming.

Hand Tools

A few well-made, well-maintained tools are preferable to a lot of neglected ones. Keep your tools in good condition, with cutting edges clean and sharp. Keep points of shovels, spades, trowels, and forks smooth and correctly shaped. Tools with joints and rollers should be lubricated to work properly.

Garden tools such as rakes, hoes, spades, forks, pruning clippers, files, and metal plant stakes should not be left lying around when not in use. If you anticipate needing a tool momentarily, place it blade down against a wall or fence.

Use a tool only for the purpose its maker intended, applying only force that it was built to withstand.


picAlong with the pleasures of outdoor activity, good weather brings something less welcome: all shapes and sizes and kinds of bugs! Before you arm yourself against this year's onslaught, you should be aware that the weapons you use against insects could harm more than their targets.

Chemicals used to control or kill pests such as insects, rats, fungi, and weeds are generally known as pesticides. Pesticides are the number two causes of household poisonings in the U.S. About 2 million people and countless companion animals are affected each year by common household pesticides such as fly spray, roach bait, and insect repellents. More than half of those who die from pesticide-related poisoning are children.

A respirator should be worn, whenever pesticides or other chemicals are mixed and/or applied. Good respiratory health depends on breathing air that is clean, odorless and leaves no taste. Although, there are many dangerous contaminates that are invisible and tasteless. So when in doubt wear a respirator to protect your respiratory system.

Read package labels carefully and follow the manufacturers' instructions for safe and effective use of pesticides in your particular lawn or garden area. Consider substituting non-poisonous insecticides wherever possible.

Don't mix pesticides in containers that anyone might use for eating or drinking. If you need mixing spoons for your pesticides, don't use them for anything else.

Mix sprays outdoors, away from areas used by family members or pets. Protect your eyes and skin, and always stay upwind of the area you're spraying.

Don't store diluted pesticide spray. It may react with the mixing container, and it won't retain its effectiveness anyway.

Always wash drips from the sides and bottoms of bottles to avoid contaminating your hands or the storage area.

Most pesticides are sold in concentrated form to be diluted for use. These products must be stored correctly in order to maintain their effectiveness and avoid endangering other people and pets. Select a lockable cabinet or closet that is dark, dry, and well ventilated, and where the temperature stays between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Always store pesticides in their original containers, and never remove labels.

Pool Chemicals

Did you know that some chlorine-based pool care products can spontaneously combust if contaminated by organic materials (such as body fluids) or by hydrocarbon fluids (such as fuel oil or motor oil)? Store and use pool chemicals according to the manufacturer's recommendations, always in a dry place away from other items and heat sources.

A respirator should be worn when using chlorine based pool products. Remember that good respiratory health depends on breathing air that is clean, odorless and leaves no taste. So when in doubt wear a respirator to protect your respiratory system.

Poison Ivy

Your ankle itches, so you reach down to scratch it and -- oh, no! Several small bumps and the beginning of inflammation mean you've gotten into poison ivy.

The "poison" in poison ivy, oak, and sumac is a resin called urushiol that is highly irritating to the skin of most people. Because urushiol doesn't evaporate quickly, you can get into trouble not only through direct contact with these plants, but by handling tools or clothing that have been in contact with them -- or even by patting the fur coat of a cat or dog that has come across poison ivy in the woods. Firewood that may have been dragged through brush can also be a source of urushiol contact.

Prevention of poison ivy rashes is preferable to treatment. You and your children should know how to recognize poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac plants so you can avoid them. Teach them the old "Leaves of three, let it be." It's not infallible, but it helps.

If you know you've come into contact with poison ivy, wash with plenty of water (don't use harsh soaps) within five minutes of exposure. When you're out hiking, you might want to carry disposable wipes with alcohol that you can use immediately after contact.

If you have to work around poison ivy (to get rid of it, for instance), consider using Ivy Shield, a barrier skin cream that is available at outdoor equipment stores. Even if you use Ivy Shield for temporary protection, however, you should remember that tools and clothing need to be thoroughly cleaned after contamination with urushiol.

Calamine lotion is the old standard treatment for poison ivy rash, and there are also lots of folk treatments that have never been clinically tested, but time is the only cure. A very intense rash, or one that covers a large area of skin, probably calls for a corticosteroid that must be prescribed by a doctor.

Bees and Wasps

Bees are essential to the pollenization cycle of many flowers and plants. As long as they're not swarming on your house, let them go about their business. Don't bother bees, and they won't bother you. However, if you find a swarm in your house, get professional help from a beekeeper or exterminator.

Many people are allergic to the stings of bees, yellow jackets, hornets, wasps, or fire ants, and the reaction can be life-threatening. Emergency action is essential, because without prompt treatment the person may die. If any member of your family has this type of allergy, ask your doctor what procedure to follow in the event of stings. He or she may recommend that you keep on hand an epinephrine self-injector for reversing anaphylactic reaction.

For stings that don't trigger an allergic reaction, there are numerous herbal and folk remedies. Try cutting an onion in half and pressing the cut side to the sting, holding it there for at least ten minutes. Onions contain an enzyme that break down the prostaglandins that form in response to a sting. Or try meat tenderizer, which contains an enzyme that breaks down proteins and stops pain and swelling if applied soon enough after a sting.

Sun Protection

When ultraviolet light hits your skin, pigment-making cells put out more pigment in an attempt to shield tissue from damage. The more UV light, the more pigment is produced as your skin tries to keep from burning. Over time, skin exposed to sunlight will develop wrinkles and age spots, and run the risk of skin cancers. Nobody wants to stay inside, and long sleeves and hats aren't always practical or comfortable. The trick is to find the right sunscreen for you, and to use it whenever you go out.

If you have fair skin and light hair, look for an SPF (Skin Protection Factor) of 15 or higher. Apply it generously to get all the protection it claims, and reapply frequently if you're sweating or in the water.

About three people out of a hundred have adverse reactions to certain sunscreens. Fortunately, there are several different kinds of chemicals used in sunscreens, and few people are sensitive to all of them. Read the labels before you buy, and test products on small patches of skin before applying them generally.

When you find a sunscreen that your skin can tolerate, you should use it every time you go outside, even on overcast days. Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin and even under loosely woven fabrics such as thin tee shirts.

Cataracts are associated with chronic exposure to sunlight, so don't neglect your eyes. Sunglasses can be fashionable and expensive and still not provide adequate ultraviolet protection. Read the labels, and find a pair that filters at least 96% of UV rays.

For Further Information contact:
Outdoor Power Equipment Institute
341 South Patrick Street
Old Town Alexandria, VA 22314

Electric Garden Tools
Power Lawn Mowers
Hand Tools
Pool Chemicals
Poison Ivy
Bees and Wasps
Sun Protection

March is Poison Prevention Month

Home Safety Council

Privacy Policy
Terms of Use