Safe allotment gardening
Health & Safety on the Allotment
Health & Safety tips and advice for gardeners
Allotment Health & Safety
Allotment sites and the activity of gardening is relatively risk free if people are aware of the hazards and take steps to ensure that they, other people and wildlife are not put at risk.
Allotments and gardening provide you with a lot of physical exercise. Which is good, but don’t overdo it. Divide large jobs into small manageable tasks and take a break between them, making sure you drink plenty of fluids.
Digging the soil is one of the most physically demanding tasks in gardening, as it involves continued bending and straightening of the back when lifting a spade of soil. It needs to be approached with care, particularly if you are not used to heavy work. Sensible clothing and footwear is essential to save you from a forked foot or worse.
Do not do too much work in one go, have regular rests, and never carry out dangerous jobs when you are tired, as this is often when accidents happen
All gardeners should be aware of the risk of catching Tetanus (Lockjaw). This is a serious infection caused by bacterium that lives in the soil and especially manured soil. It enters the body through cuts and abrasions and a few days or weeks later the illness hits. Please make sure that you have a vaccination that protects you against tetanus.
Wear gloves and other suitable protection when in close proximity to plants and insects that can sting, bite or cause other skin irritations
Be mindful that in very hot weather, especially in green houses, it is possible, although very rare, for Legionella (Legionnaire’s Disease) to multiply in warm water to potentially harmful levels. Never drink water from water butts or tanks, avoid leaving bottled water on site from one visit to the next and only drink from taps if you know for sure they provide safe drinking water
Protect yourself from water-borne diseases such as Weil’s disease by wearing waterproof gloves, clothing and boots when working with stagnant water
Wash your hands after any gardening activity and always make sure you clean and protect any cuts, scratches and abrasions
Tools & Equipment
Garden tools can be a hazard if they are not stored properly or are left lying around the allotment when not in use. For example upturned spades and forks. Always reserve that little bit of time to put things away after a day’s work. An untidy allotment is a dangerous one.
Making sure your tools are the right size and style for you and are kept in good condition will help prevent a lot of aches and pains
Most power tools need a reasonable amount of knowledge and training to be able to use them efficiently and safely e.g. Chainsaws, Strimmers, Lawnmowers and Rotavators. A good Rotavator can drastically reduce manual labour, but is also difficult to control, so familiarise yourself with the controls and take a while to get used to it. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for any powered appliance. Never attempt to repair or maintain a powered appliance whilst it is still connected to the power source
Use ear-defenders, dust masks and googles where appropriate
Pesticides and fertilisers
Ensure that all chemicals are kept securely locked away in clearly marked containers – preferably the original containers. Do not keep them in second-hand food & drink vessels such as bottles, tins or jars. When applying pesticides be sure to wear appropriate clothing and only do so when the conditions are suitable. Avoid drift and any other contamination to other plots and people
Always make sure that pesticides and fertilisers are disposed of responsibly. Pesticides should never be included in household rubbish, burnt, placed in skips or poured into any kind of drainage system or watercourse. If in doubt please seek advice from the site manager or local council
Do not open a chemical or fertilizer container with your head right over it, the vapours can often be as dangerous as the contents
Consider organic and natural alternatives
A first aid kit is a wise addition to the tools kept in the garden shed. A small selection of adhesive plasters, antiseptic ointment, a pair of tweezers for removing thorns and splinters and a gauze or lint pad to use as a compress to stop the bleeding if you are badly cut.
It is a good idea in all aspects of life to have some knowledge of first aid
Ponds and water
A well planned and maintained pond can enhance your allotment, provide numerous benefits to wildlife and enjoyment to people of all ages.
If you wish to have a pond and the site management allow it, keep it shallow, 30-50cm at the deepest point is sufficient for biodiversity and sloping sides also prevent drowning of mammals that come to drink water. In winter use a float to prevent icing-over, otherwise children may be tempted to walk on ice and pond-life will be starved of oxygen.
People at most risk of drowning in ponds are children under three years of age. The risk from drowning decreases as a child’s age and understanding of the danger increases. Regard an open water butt as you would a pond in respect of the hazard it presents
The allotment gardener has a responsibility not to cause unnecessary harm to the local wildlife. Such hazards include litter, carelessly applied fruit netting, use of pesticides, open drains, exposed pest control methods, lack of care when mowing & strimming, broken glass and pre-stacked bonfires.
Furthermore it is worth noting that certain wildlife such as badgers, slowworms, some birds of prey and reptiles have legal protection. Research protected species if in doubt
Unfortunately though, some level of pest control is often required to control vermin. Rats in particular can carry many diseases including Weil’s Disease, which can cause human death via contaminated water. Authority to administer pest control is often reserved for those responsible for the site, but if individual plot-holders are permitted to tackle the problem themselves always follow the instructions and apply responsibly
Try to discourage rats by securing rubbish in bins and not putting food on the compost heap. Compost heaps can also be covered with wire mesh to prevent entry
Individual sites are likely to have their own rules about bonfires so make sure you know where you stand. Irrespective of the site rules, the government Environmental Protection Act, stipulates laws pertaining to such things as nuisance being caused by smoke and drift over a public highway
Always check the weather to make sure conditions are suitable and to know which way the smoke will drift. Never leave a fire unattended and make sure that it is completely put out (with water if necessary) before you leave.
Check your bonfire for wildlife before lighting it and keep any children under close supervision at all times – they tend to have a fascination for bonfires!
Allotment gardeners often spend long periods of time on their own, so think about what would happen if you had an accident or fell ill. Whilst it’s very appealing to escape the daily toil of our modern technology-filled lives, if you own a mobile phone, keep it with you – it could save your life in times of need! Otherwise, at least let a friend or relative know where you are and how long you intend to be
Be aware of the weather conditions. It’s so easy to get caught out with a heavy downpour, bitterly cold wind or the one that catches most people unaware – sunstroke!
Do not undertake excessively strenuous or dangerous work on your own or when neighbouring gardeners are not about
Before you start a potentially dangerous job (e.g. carrying heavy items or using a tool), stop and think about how you might hurt yourself or others on the site. If there is a safer way to undertake the work, do so. All risk cannot be eliminated, but take any action to reduce the risks such as wearing appropriate safety equipment and warning other users in advance of what you are doing and to stay clear.
Stopping for a lunch break helps restore energy after lots of work. Always wash your hands after gardening and especially before eating. The use of hand sterilising gel is highly recommended
Children should be accompanied by an adult and supervised at all times
Always wash your fruit and vegetables thoroughly before eating them
Here's an informative contribution about garden safety
kindly written and donated to our site by Clara Beaufort from the USA
Photo Credit: Pexels
Make Your Backyard A Safe, Happy Place for Spring
Who doesn’t remember hours of frollicking and playing in a backyard? Springtime memories includes creating a slippery slide water park, camping out in tents, a lightning bug collecting or swimming in the backyard pool. Backyards are one of the best places for warm-weather fun.
But backyards can also lead to illness or tragedy when not properly maintained or secured. So in an effort to keep your fun space at its safest for the spring, let’s look at some things you can work on now to get started.
The greenest lawn on the block
If having one of the greenest lawns on the block is a priority for you, make sure to use a natural fertilizer that is safe for children and pets. It’s ideal to apply this fertilizer in the fall. Keep children and pets off the yard for 24 hours after application. Also, if you purchase any fertilizer in advance, keep it stored away from children and pets.
Keep children indoors while mowing
Each day, 13 children in the United States are sent to emergency rooms from lawn mowing accidents that are easily preventable. Under no circumstances should children be riding on riding mowers alone or with adults. Basically, lawnmowers and children should be kept a door apart. Too many accidents can happen as children have been backed over, severely injured by flying debris, and other mishaps that occur around this deadly machinery.
Keep your pool safe
Backyard pools can provide tons of summer fun, from rousing games of Marco Polo to underwater races. But too often, poor planning and poor safety precautions end in tragic consequences for family pets, children, and even adults. According to the Red Cross, 200 children drown in family pools each year.
So if you’re lucky enough to have a pool in your backyard, do take all necessary precautions to protect your loved ones.
Your pool should be surrounded by a barrier or fence that is a minimum of 4 feet high. If the fence will have an entrance, it should have a self closing door with a self-closing latch, to avoid it being left open.
If you’re going to have a pool, have a pool safety cover. This should be a mandatory part of your pool supplies.
Consider a pool alarm, particularly if you have young children. This way in the event a child or pet falls into the pool, you’ll be alerted.
Never leave children unsupervised by a pool.
Check play equipment
If you have a playset in your yard, you should check the integrity of the system annually to make sure that everything is in working order. For example, if there is a high-climbing platform as part of the structure, you should make sure floor is secure.
Make Sure Your Landscaping Isn’t Poisonous
Beautiful flowers and colorful berries can be attractive playthings for children and pets. But in most cases common backyard plants are poisonous. Do a thorough check of your backyard to make sure you aren’t unknowingly growing a poisonous plant that could harm a loved one. Here’s a list of some common offenders, but if you’re unsure you should check out a complete list.
Lily of the Valley, all
Yew, seeds inside the berries
Pass on the trampoline
Backyard trampolines look likes loads of fun, but they come along with loads of injuries. One nine-year study by the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics reported that 1 million children visited the emergency room from trampoline injuries.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, 8,900 home fires occur each year as a result of a backyard grill, hibachi, or barbecue each year. The three leading causes of grill fires are, 1) a failure to clean them, 2) having them too close to something that could catch fire, and 3) leaving them unattended. Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby for emergencies.
Spring will be here soon. Make sure you’ve taken the necessary precautions to avoid backyard injuries so you can enjoy your beautiful outdoor space.