5 Outdoor Maintenance Safety Tips
Avoid injuries when caring for your lawn with these expert tips and reminders.
Our son is approaching the age where we want to teach him to mow our small Georgia yard. After all, my husband remembers making extra money and enjoying being outdoors when he mowed lawns for neighbors and his parents’ friends during the summer breaks of his own youth.
But to make sure we teach our child safety during those lessons, and as a refresher for ourselves, I turned to experts with the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) for their best outdoor maintenance safety tips.
It’s good to brush up on these smart steps, no matter your age, especially if the warmer temperatures send you rushing to pull out the lawn and garden equipment for your yard.
“Doing some basic maintenance will ensure your equipment operates safely and gets the job done,” says Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI, an international trade association representing more than 100 power equipment, engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers.
Know your equipment
Dust off that owner’s manual to learn about the controls. This makes sense if you have new mowers, trimmers, pruners or other equipment, but it’s also wise to quickly reacquaint yourself with the controls on items you already own.
“Especially with sharp blades, it pays to know what you’re working with,” Kiser says.
Inspect and clean your equipment
A clean machine will run more efficiently and last longer, according to OPEI. Check for loose belts and missing or damaged parts, and replace parts if needed.
Make sure there are no worn wires, such as spark plugs, or frayed pull cords, says Rex Bishop, director of technical education for the NALP. Also, check the air filter for dirt and clean that, if necessary.
Think back to the last time you mowed. Perhaps you finished it right before a storm, or you squeezed it in before a ball game. If you didn’t have time to clean up afterward, you will need to do a quick clean now. Before you turn it on, remove any dirt, oil or grass stuck to the equipment.
“A mower typically will have grass clippings underneath the deck that may have matted up over time and become a nuisance,” Bishop says.
Drain old fuel
Fuel should not be left sitting in the tank for more than 30 days, so if it’s been awhile since you used your equipment, check for any remaining fuel in the tank.
Untreated gasoline left in the system will deteriorate, which may cause starting or running problems and, in some cases, damage to the fuel system, according to OPEI. You need to use a fuel stabilizer, which burns the fuel out of the system.
As a rule, buy only enough gasoline for what you think you’re going to use over the next month, Kiser says. Then label your fuel can with the date of purchase and the fuel’s ethanol content, so that you don’t use old fuel.
Sharpen your cutting blade
Make the most of your time outdoors by working with a sharp blade for a clean, healthy cut across the lawn. Signs that there may be a problem with your blade include grass looking uneven with a grayish-brown tint or if you are leaving a trail, Kiser says.
If you have nicked or broken blades, which may result from hitting rocks or other debris, carefully replace them yourself or hire a professional.
Dress for the activity
Be thoughtful about your outdoor outfits. Avoid flip flops, and definitely don’t go barefoot, Bishop says. Closed-toed shoes, such as boots and tennis shoes, are best.
Wearing goggles, sunglasses and earplugs can help protect your eyes and ears from noise and debris. Some people even wear a mask or bandana over their faces.
Although the sun may be blazing, experts recommend wearing long pants, and preferably long-sleeve shirts as well.
“If you’re running a weed eater or an edger, it’s throwing debris everywhere. If you’re not wearing long-legged pants, then you’re apt to get cut from debris,” Bishop says.