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Landscape rake home hardware top, tools safety tips
August 31, 2006|TOM DUMAS Staff Writer
HAZARD -- Any sharp object can be a dangerous one. Even something as seemingly harmless as a garden tool can be a weapon when used improperly, according to the Family Safe Online Campaign.
"If you think you're going to put down a tool and suddenly put a hand on a sharp piece of metal, what do you think will happen?" said Vicki Thompson, director of the FSC. "It will cut you. That's why it's always good to inspect any piece of equipment and even wipe it down."
Among the most common types of garden tools to have on the property are rakes, hoes, axes and shovels, according to Ron Buck, soil erosion specialist with the Soil and Water Conservation Society.
"You can easily use any tool as a weapon," Buck said. "What's important is that you don't use them to cause damage and leave them unattended."
Dangerous tools are considered "deadly" because a person can be seriously hurt or even killed. Such tools include chainsaws, walk-behind power blowers, gasoline-powered and diesel-powered tools, weed trimmers and tools used to trim limbs and shrubs.
According to the campaign, to protect themselves, gardeners and consumers should keep their rakes and hoes in hand during use and consider the following safety precautions before using any tools, including rake, hoe and shovels.
Be careful when digging
Despite what you may hear, there is no excuse for digging in the wrong area. A gardener must always be extra careful when digging, according to Buck. If the gardener is not careful while digging, the garden can be ruined.
"It's never a good idea to use a shovel to dig up dirt from one area and throw it in another," Buck said. "By doing that, you're actually throwing the ground cover and topsoil in a different location and damaging it."
Careful digging can be a tricky business, said Vicki Thompson, who noted the number one complaint of those who have contacted the FSC campaign is that digging tools are too easily accessible.
"If you have a wooden garden spade, make sure it's locked up," Thompson said. "If you have a metal garden spade, you should lock it in a shed."
Safety around rakes
The campaign recommends keeping rakes, hoes and shovels locked away to avoid accidental injury or death. Keeping such tools out of reach of children is also important because such items are often made for them, Thompson said.
Such tools should also be wrapped with extra care and be kept out of the children's reach, Buck said.
"If you go out to the garage or shed, keep it locked up," Buck said. "You don't want the little ones opening it and getting access to a can of gasoline or some other type of tool that can be harmful to them."
Safety around rakes
Never use a rake or hoe on sidewalks or a driveway, according to Buck.
"That's an easy way to damage the asphalt, and if someone slips and falls, they're going to put a lot of pressure on their head," Buck said.
"Keep the rakes and shovels well away from the sidewalks," he said. "Never use them to chip the asphalt in the driveway, and never throw soil on the pavement in front of your house, because if you do, the soil will blow onto the asphalt and that will chip it. Not only will you do damage, but it will attract dirt that will quickly accumulate in your driveway."
Other common garden tools that can be dangerous include power blowers, weed trimmers and lawn tractors. These tools should also be locked away and made inaccessible to children, Buck said.
Safety around lawn tools
The most common garden tool, the shovel, must be used with care, Buck said.
"If you use it to dig holes in your yard and you have soil compacted down there, you have to dig that whole place out again," Buck said. "That's a time-consuming and messy job."
If you are going to dig, make sure the shovel is made of a good-quality wood and that it's all locked up so it cannot get broken or damaged.
"The best thing to do is to use a stick to break the old wood out of the ground," Buck said. "By doing that, you won't have to go digging all the way down to a place that is hard to reach."
While digging with a shovel is a quick way to remove soil, it's not the best way to remove grass clippings, which can pose a potential problem if you don't dispose of them properly. Buck said placing grass clippings into a trash bin for later disposal will not hurt grass, but it will pose a problem because the grass clippings will break up into chunks of woody matter, which eventually will become more compacted than the soil.
Power equipment should also be used carefully and in a safe area, Buck said.
"If you're going to use a weed trimmer, it's got a little speed and a fan on it," Buck said. "Use it on the yard only, and make sure it's in a safe area so that it doesn't damage anything."
Maintain rakes and hoes
According to Vicki Thompson, one of the most important things a gardener can do is to regularly maintain his or her rake, hoe and shovels.
"You want to know how a tool has been used, how it has been sharpened, how well it has been maintained," Thompson said. "It's important for you to know if it's been used and sharpened properly and to keep it sharp."
Making sure a rake or hoe is sharp is easy. Simply run the rake or hoe over some gravel, stone or other hard material. If a tool does not have a metal back, a guard should be