Spending time in the back yard with family and friends is one of the great American pastimes. However, it really is important to make sure that your back yard is safe for kids and adults.
Grills, swing sets, lawn mowers, pools, fences, even deck chairs and tables can be potential danger spots if not used and maintained with safety in mind.
It's smart to do a safety checkup in your back yard, just as you should in your home. Here are some key safety steps to take:
UWith young children in the home, fully enclose the yard -- no open gates or paths. A good fence and secure gate helps keep kids and pets where you want them -- both in and out of your yard. A spring-loaded gate closer is recommended and can be easily installed. After installation, tune up the tension to make sure it closes properly and securely.
UKeep sharp objects and other potentially dangerous equipment and hazardous materials put away, out of reach, in a locked shed, locked cabinet or on a high shelf. That includes garden tools, lawn mowers, grills, propane tanks, lawn chemicals, charcoal lighter fluid and paint thinner.
Children at play
UCheck and maintain swing sets and other playground equipment. Pad areas under equipment with a 6-inch border of 10-12 inches of soft, impact-absorbing surfacing such as wood chips, mulch or rubber matting.
UCheck equipment for corrosion and deterioration, missing parts, splintered wood and sharp edges. Be sure all S-hooks are closed. Check for instability. Equipment must be firmly anchored in the ground to avoid injuries from tip-overs.
UMake sure there are no openings or spaces where a child could become entrapped or entangled.
UChoose age-appropriate equipment. A guideline: If you have to lift your children to use the equipment, it isn't safe for them to use.
On the deck
UNever leave grills unattended. Use grills only outdoors. Make sure ashes are cooled before you put them in the trash. Embers can smolder undetected in the trash for hours before igniting. Teach children to stay away from grills just as with stoves.
UPools require intensive safety steps and vigilance. Always have adult supervision. Even a wading pool or filled bucket could be dangerous to a young child.
UTo avoid children entering the pool uninvited, restrict access with a fence at least 4 feet high (with vertical pickets less than 4 inches apart or chain links no larger than 13/4 inches), a self-closing, self-latching gate and a pool cover.
USteps and ladders for above-ground pools should be secured or removed when the pool is not in use. Consider installing an alarm to alert if unauthorized access to the pool is being attempted. Have a rescuing device such as a life preserver or a telescopic pole with a shepherd's hook.
UCheck your deck. Examine a wooden deck for splinters on the floorboards or on railings and examine spaces under hand railings.
UMake sure deck chairs and tables are stable. Kids can topple over while trying to climb these.
Lawn mowers and power tools
Safety is critical when using lawn mowers and outdoor power equipment, like hedgers and trimmers. Be sure to:
UOperate lawn mowers responsibly. Keep children and pets inside when using mowers and power equipment. Clear the mowing area of debris -- rocks, twigs, toys -- before starting.
URiding mowers that have reverse can be dangerous. Always check what's behind you to make sure there are no children, pets or objects, before operating a riding mower in reverse. Your kids might be in the house, but what about the neighbors' children and pets?
UNever let children ride on the operator's lap or anywhere on a mower.
UKeep hands and feet away from rotating parts and from under the machine.
UWear eye protection -- safety glasses or goggles -- during operation. When using pesticides or other lawn chemicals, keep children and pets out of the area. It is important to ensure that they avoid inhalation and exposure to chemical dust and overspray. Keep them off the area for the recommended period of time after application to avoid contamination through bare feet or ingestion. Finally, store all pesticides and other chemicals in their original containers.
UThink safety when using metal ladders and trimming trees. Electricity passes right through metal tools and even can travel through dry soil to shock you.
UDon't use power equipment in wet conditions.
UWhen using extension cords, make sure they are made for outdoor use and are appropriate for the equipment.
Garage door safety
Check sectional garage door safety by following these steps:
UFirst, test the balance and spring tension. Pull the release handle to disengage the opener, then hand-roll the door up and down. It should operate smoothly and stay in place wherever you leave it.
UAfter re-engaging the door with the drive, test the auto-reverse feature. Place a roll of paper towels under the door and close it. The door should reverse quickly when it hits the towels.
UTest the light beam safety sensors located near the floor on the side rails. Place a cardboard box under the open door so it interrupts the beam. Then close the door. It should reverse immediately.
With smart safety steps in place, you can enjoy your own great outdoors.
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