Gardens are great to have and wonderful to be in but they do have their hazards, particularly to children. Every year, around 125,000 children are killed or injured in gardening accidents.
How to Make Sure Your Garden Stays Safe
First, make sure that your garden is contained so your child can’t get out. The last thing you want to hear is the squeal of tyres interrupting your weeding or reading. If your garden is hedged, check it regularly for gaps and for complete safety try to run chicken wire down the base of a hedge if it isn’t bush all the way to the floor.
Also check fences and gates to ensure they are secure. Walls can present a hazard in their own right as older walls can crumble away in time and have been known to collapse on people, so make sure you have them checked for stability.
Keep your borders trimmed back from paths so that sharp leaves or thorns don’t become entangled in smaller children’s clothes, hair or possibly faces and eyes as they walk, run or ride past. Try to avoid prickly or thorny shrubs at all as they tend to be head height for children.
Equally, make children aware of dangerous plants and the hazards of eating them (see Which Garden Plants Are Unsafe For Children? for more info). Some plants, such as pampas grass, have long stems that are extremely sharp. Also point out things like holly or roses, which have pointy leaves and thorns.
Toys, Equipment and Surfaces
When using toys or climbing equipment in the garden, always follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions and never substitute parts. Don’t put Climbing Equipment or playhouses near concreted areas or too near walls, fences, or large bushes, as these may be fallen against or into. You can buy play surface to lay in your garden as well, which reduce the risks of muddy, slippery ground (see Play Equipment: Safety, Standards And Supervision).
Other surfaces in and around the garden that are hazardous are driveways and steps. If possible, replace gravel with a solid surface as gravel can be a Choking Hazard for children of all ages (older children may throw it too).
Check paving is fitted properly, especially on steps and that they are replaced as soon as cracks appear or they work loose. They can be a major trip hazard, which could prove very nasty if they result in a head injury.
DIY and Power Tools
If you do a lot of garden DIY, don’t leave tools lying around. This may sound obvious, but it is very easy to have a break that turns into a quick sandwich, which is all the time it needs for a tool to be found and ‘played’ with, or at the least the cable tripped over.
Ensure that power tools have a cut off switch in them (an RCD – residual current device) and that you unplug them as soon as you are finished with them. Store them in a locked garage on a high shelf and make it clear that they are out of bounds for safety reasons. Make sure that children don’t play near you when you are using them, especially if you are using a step ladder or ladder which can be easily knocked.
Never use power tools in the wet and discourage children from playing with hoses when there are tools around. Likewise, with non-power tools such as secateurs, trowels and hammers, don’t leave them lying on the ground when gardening as this is an open invitation to small children. At least keep things in a portable box with a handle that you can carry around the garden with you or in the pocket of an apron if you have one.
Make sure that chemicals, such as weed or insect killer, paints and wood preservers are also locked away, and that children are not in the vicinity when they are used. Ensure that children do not play near sprayed plants either, as they may touch them and transfer some of the chemicals into their mouths or eyes.
Ponds and Water
Water play should be cleared away at the end of the day. Paddling pools especially need to be emptied and stored away, as they can fill up with enough rain overnight to present a drowning hazard to small children by morning.
Ponds Can Be Dangerous for obvious reasons so fence them off, make sure they are out of bounds or better still, fill them in. You could cover them with netting or chicken wire if it is a small pond, to prevent children falling in. You can always have a bird bath or smaller water feature that doesn’t pose a threat of drowning until your children are much older.
In hotter weather, barbeques are the perfect way to relax, but make sure you never leave children alone while it is lit as the excitement can lead to curiosity. Make sure it is thoroughly out at the end of the day and left to cool down. Equally, ensure plates and cutlery, if used, are cleared straight away to avoid accidents and try to use paper plates and plastic cups instead of glasses and china plates where children are concerned – it saves on the washing up too!