Follow These Safety Tips in Order to Enjoy Your Backyard to the Fullest Extent This Summer
Don't let safety hazards prevent you from enjoying the warm weather in your own backyard
We are well on the way to the first day of summer. For some people, it means staying indoors and turning on the air conditioning. For most people, however, it means ballgames, family vacations and backyard grilling. If you're planning to use your backyard this summer, take a few moments now to make it as safe as possible so that you and your family can enjoy the warm weather with the least risk.
Holes and Other Obstructions
Walk over your entire yard and look for any holes that might not be immediately obvious, including areas that aren't level with the rest of the ground. Holes and uneven surfaces can pose tripping hazards. Some of these holes can provide a nice hiding place for snakes and other backyard critters.
Anytime you have trees, you have tree roots. Depending upon the age and size of the tree, some of these roots can be very large and protrude a bit from the ground. While chopping down the tree isn't usually the best option, you can take steps to remove any roots that are completely exposed from the ground. If you have children that like to run around, you should keep children from running in these areas.
Grilling out is an American tradition in the summer, but it can go wrong if you're not careful. Keep the following in mind when you fire up your grill:
- Leave 10 feet between the grill and any combustible materials, such as deck railing, the side of your house, and nearby plants.
- If you have a gas grill, check it for any leaks, blockages, or holes in the hose.
- If your grill uses charcoal, wait for the coals to cool down completely before disposing of them. Soak them with cold water and then put them in a noncombustible metal can.
- If you use an electric grill, inspect the cord and the control box to ensure there are no exposed wires. Avoid using extension cords, which must be properly rated to handle the electrical load.
- Always make sure to have somebody at the grill when it's in use.
Standing water is an excellent breeding ground for pests, especially mosquitoes. Do a weekly check of all places where water can collect, such as on buckets and tarps, and dump any water you find standing there. If you have water in your yard that you can't empty, such as a decorative pond, consider adding a mosquito control product that will kill mosquito larvae. Resist the urge to place fish in the decorative ponds as they present an attractive meal source to snakes in the shallow water.
Fire pits are great for hanging out and making s'mores, but they can also be dangerous. Remember these tips if you're thinking about installing one in your yard:
- Like the grill, place the pit safely away from your house, deck, and any plants and trees.
- Make sure at least one adult stays close to the pit at all times when it's in use and while it's cooling off,
- To extinguish the fire completely, use sand.
Playsets and Trampolines
Children enjoy having fun in the backyard, but things can go wrong very quickly if you aren't careful. Regardless of how they're playing, always make sure that at least one adult is supervising children at all times.
Trampolines are so prone to causing injuries that many home insurance companies will raise your rates if you have one. If you have a trampoline, allow only one child at a time to jump. Install a trampoline enclosure to prevent kids from falling off and hurting themselves. Anchor the trampoline and enclosure with an anchoring kit and take away trampoline ladders when not in use to prevent small children from accessing the toy without supervision.
For playsets, check the set regularly for sturdiness, wood rot, rusty bolts, and sharp screws or nails, then make any necessary repairs. Check for openings that could trap a child's neck or head. Place the playset securely on a piece of level ground and use a soft material, such as wood chips, to cushion any falls. Make sure there is at least six feet of clearance on all sides of the swing set.
Inspect your deck every year, paying close attention to the spot where it attaches to the house. This is known as the ledger board, and it's the spot most vulnerable to water damage. Waterproof the deck every two to three years to prevent the wood from warping and splitting, which can cause falls. Check for splits and cracks in the wood, or try to penetrate 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch into it using a screwdriver, to see if it has been affected by moisture. If you can penetrate it, or if there are cracks, the wood needs to be replaced.
Plants and Landscaping
Plants are a common source of poisoning for young children. Identify the plants in your yard and remove or contain any that are poisonous to children or pets. Teach children to not pick or eat anything from plants in the garden. Fruits and vegetables which may be safe when fully ripened might be unsafe when still growing.
Always read the labels and instructions on any pesticide, herbicide or fertilizers. Many products don't recommend people or pet traffic for several days after application.
Pick up all toys and other loose objects before mowing your lawn to avoid injury and do not allow children outside while you're working. Small debris kicked up by a mower, such as rocks, can injure or even kill.