Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp has a mosaic existence: freelance writer and editor, speaker, photographer, garden coach, consultant and seasonal garden center employee. Co-author of the Indiana Gardener’s Guide, she writes about gardening in The Indianapolis Star and Angie’s List magazine and she blogs at

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Dangers in the Garden
by Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp    

There are many ways to injure yourself while working in the garden. Here is a safety primer that just might prevent a trip to the ER.

The Centers for Disease Control says about 36,000 people seek emergency help because of injuries from chain saws, mostly to arms, legs and hands.1

If you are traveling to the backyard this summer, you better make sure you’ve had your shots! You also need eye and ear protection, gloves, hard-toed shoes, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants, a hat, sunscreen and insect repellent.

Lawn and garden equipment caused 338,092 injuries nationwide in 2012, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. Nearly 17,000 of the injuries were children under age 19.

Emergency room visits are due to lower back pain, puncture wounds, lacerations, sunburns and allergic reactions to plant exposure — such as poison ivy or insect bites and stings — according to Dr. Stephen Meldon, director of emergency departments at the Cleveland Clinic.

The most severe, though, are amputation of body parts by improper use of power equipment, Meldon said. “These are common injuries.” 

Eye injuries also bring people into the hospital, “where they’ve scratched the cornea or have an abrasion on the surface of the eye,” he said. He recommends wearing eye and ear protection when using power equipment.

Some hazards may seem minor. We all know the dangers of stepping on a rusty nail, but what about the prick of a rose thorn, a splinter from a wood gate or an abrasion caused by a clumsy move?

The result can be infection by Tetanus, a common bacteria that most of us were inoculated against when we were children, with boosters periodically through adulthood.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 30 percent of injuries that resulted in tetanus came from garden or farm-related activities. During 2001 through 2008, the last years reported, 233 tetanus cases were reported, including 25 that were fatal. The victims skewed older — 49 percent were 50 years of age or older, and male, 59 percent.

That could be because older adults either did not have the primary series of immunizations or have not kept up with their booster shots.

Beware of wounds from splinters, rusty nails or abrasions from stone or wood. These injuries are some of the ways tetanus and other serious infections may be contracted.2

The prick of a rose thorn may expose you to tetanus, so make sure your vaccinations are up to date.3

Wearing eye protection is a good idea when using power tools.4

Be sure to follow the safety instructions on mowers and other power equipment to avoid reducing the number of your fingers and toes, or worse.3
Keep It Safe

•  Make sure your tetanus vaccination is up to date.

•  Wear substantial shoes, long pants and close-fitting clothes.

•  Wear eye protection, heavy gloves (protects hands when changing, sharpening or cleaning blades) and hearing protection, such as earplugs, when using motor-driven equipment.

•  Make sure equipment is in good operating order. This includes sharpening blades, which makes for safer operation than with dull blades.

•  Clear the area of people, pets, stones, sticks and other objects. Keep children and pets indoors. Turn off equipment if a child or pet enters the area.

•  Unplug electric tools and disconnect spark plug wires on gasoline-powered tools before making adjustments or clearing jams near moving parts.

•  Be sure power tools are turned off and inoperable if they must be left unattended to prevent use by children.

•  Never fill gasoline tanks while machinery is on or when equipment is still hot. Wipe up spills. Store gas in an approved container away from the house. Never smoke or have any type of flame around gasoline or any gasoline-powered equipment.

•  Never work with electric power tools in wet or damp conditions. For protection against electrocution, use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). GFCIs come in several models, including a portable plug-in type.

•  Be sure that extension cords are in good condition, are rated for outdoor use and are the proper gauge for the electrical current capacity of the tool.

Source: Consumer Products Safety Commission


1. Photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo Inc./liveslow
2. Photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo Inc./trevorb
3. Photo by Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
4. Photo by © Can Stock Photo Inc./dragon_fang

From State-by-State Gardening July/August 2013


Posted: 09/18/13   RSS | Print


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iulia1cristea - 09/20/2013

good to know!

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