Gardening can be a pleasure for 365 days of the year. Whatever the weather outdoors, a greenhouse is a year-round refuge where there’s always some activity to enjoy, whatever the season. But it’s not just the weather which can spoil our gardening activities. Growing plants involves not just our creative talents but also skill and physical effort. A sensible and practical approach to all gardening tasks will provide valuable exercise, and help to keep you injury-free. This guide provides tips on how to make your garden a safer, incident-free zone, both indoors and out!
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Digging is one of the chief causes of backache. Correct technique can help avoid muscle strain. Dig large areas in stages, keeping off the soil if it sticks to your boots. Lift only as much soil as you can comfortably manage, pace yourself, and develop a rhythm. Rest frequently, and stop if your back aches. Avoid sudden twisting actions, and try using a spade with an angled blade/handle to reduce the amount of effort required.
Gardeners are exposed to the direct effects of the sun’s rays, and skin which is rarely exposed is especially susceptible to sunburn. Remember too, that you can still be burnt by the sun even on bright but cloudy days. Always wear a wide-brimmed hat that shades your face, ears and neck. Long sleeves and trousers help protect arms and legs. If you prefer to wear t-shirts/shorts, protect all exposed skin with sunscreen. Avoid getting the sap of plants on exposed skin in bright sunshine, which can lead to allergic reactions. The effects of the sun can be magnified through greenhouse glazing, so wear a hat, protect skin and use greenhouse shading.
The face is one of the most vulnerable areas of the body, especially the eyes. A few simple precautions can help avoid serious injuries. Use cane tops or similar to avoid eye injuries. Avoid whiplash from trees and shrubs when working in amongst them. Beware of sharp edges on greenhouse staging, shelving, door frames and ventilators. Always wear safety glasses goggles when operating powered garden equipment. Avoid rubbing your face and eyes when working to prevent an allergic reaction to plant hairs and sap. If you injure your eyes in any way, seek medical advice immediately.
Dress sensibly. Make sure you wear suitable protective clothing and footwear when using powered equipment – even in warm summer weather. Wear strong footwear with gripping soles. Reinforced toecaps can be an added protection when digging. Use gloves when pruning, handling rocks, weeding and when using high-speed equipment like hedge trimmers, hover mowers and trimmers. When using powered equipment, avoid wearing any loose clothing such as scarves or ties. Seek medical advice for any serious flesh wound, and check if your tetanus immunisation is up-to-date.
Additional heat can be provided by electricity, gas or paraffin. All gas heaters and their supply should be installed and checked regularly by an approved contractor. Poor performance can result in release of potentially dangerous fumes. Gas cylinders should be stood outside the greenhouse on a level surface. Electric heaters should always be ‘splash proof’ and connected via a residual current device (RCD) or power-breaker. Paraffin heaters should be on firm ground where they cannot tip over and leak. Store paraffin away from the heater. No heater should be covered or have the air flow blocked.
All electrical installations should be fitted by an approved contractor. Waterproof sockets and switches are essential in a greenhouse. All equipment should be connected using 3-core flex via a RCD or power-breaker. This cuts off the supply should a power cord be damaged. Hang power cords over your shoulder, or use a safety harness, and avoid using electrical equipment in wet conditions. Check the suitability of extension leads before use. Switch off and unplug equipment before cleaning or maintenance.
Garden chemicals are effective when used sensibly and safely. Store chemicals in their original containers in a locked cupboard away from children and pets. Consult your local authority before disposing of unwanted chemicals. Do not store chemicals in your greenhouse. Weedkillers in particular can cause serious plant damage. Wear gloves when handling composts containing pesticides. Post a warning sign or lock a greenhouse where chemicals have been used, and ventilate fully afterwards.
Heavy loads can all be moved safely and effectively by following some basic rules. Whenever you lift heavy objects, remember to KEEP YOUR BACK STRAIGHT AT ALL TIMES. Squat down, knees bent, with your feet either side of the load. Elbows should be kept close to the body and the object grasped firmly with both hands. To lift, lean forward slightly and straighten your legs in a smooth, lifting action, keeping the object close to your body. Keep your back straight. Put a load down by reversing the process, ensuring your fingers are not trapped underneath. When using a wheelbarrow, place the weight to the front, over the wheel, and then lift the handles using the technique described above. Always push a wheelbarrow, don’t pull it. For heavy loads, or when lifting above shoulder level, seek help. If you think you have suffered an injury seek medical advice immediately.