Spring is upon us and now’s the perfect time to start getting the garden ready for summer. For gardeners, this means gardening is often seen as a relaxing, somewhat simple task but anyone working as a full-time gardener knows that that isn’t the case at all.
While it can be relaxing at times, trade gardeners face risks and hazards every day that they work and putting measures in place to prevent these risks can help to protect themselves, their employees and their clients from illness or injury. From understanding the risks to learning about the measures you can take, we’ve put together a guide to help.
Any trade comes with its risks and in a lot of cases, these risks can overlap. The use of tools, working outside and the stress of manual labour can span a huge number of trades but for gardeners, there is a unique set of risks that need to be taken into consideration. From chemical use to diseases and harmful plants or insects, you can find some of the most common risks you need to be aware of in gardening below.
Slips, Trips and Falls
Whether you’re slipping on wet grass, tripping over your tools or equipment, or falling from ladders while pruning a particularly tall plant, slips, trips and falls are some of the most common risks and hazards that gardeners can face.
They also happen to be the most common public liability claims. If a client trips over your tools or slips on spilt chemicals, you may be liable to provide compensation for any damage or injury caused. A good public liability insurance policy for gardeners will help protect you financially, however you should take care to ensure that any equipment is kept out of walkways and that you operate ladders and other height-related equipment safely.
Whether it’s windy and pouring with rain, or sunny and blisteringly hot, the weather conditions you work in could pose a risk to your health. If the weather is bad, you’re at increased risk of slips, as well as at risk for illnesses associated with cold and wet weather. On the opposite end of the scale, hot, dry days could lead to heat exhaustion or dehydration, as well as skin problems if exposed to the sun for too long.
To prevent these hazards, always wrap up in weather-resistant clothing when working in the cold, and ensure that you keep yourself hydrated and well protected with hats and sunscreen when working outdoors. In both cases, take regular breaks away from the weather conditions where possible to help reduce risk further.
There is, of course, no escaping the fact that gardening involves a lot of manual labour. From lifting heavy bags of soil to repetitive actions like raking, your body can go through a lot in a single day of work. Overexerting yourself can cause issues like back pain, tendonitis, sprains, carpal tunnel syndrome and more. Doing warm-up exercises prior to starting a job and listening to your limits can help you avoid health issues associated with manual labour.
Pesticides, weed killers and more are all commonly used in gardening and while they are approved for environmental use, this doesn’t mean they’re good for you or your lungs if inhaled or ingested. Some chemicals, particularly those that are cheaper or that use a mix between approved substances and other chemicals, have been linked to issues with mutations, birth defects, cancer and other issues throughout studies with animals, so it’s important to ensure that you are limiting your own exposure to be safe. Sticking with organic materials and ensuring you wear masks when handling chemicals in close quarters can help to prevent any long-term effects.
Sharp and/or Dangerous Equipment
The use of sharp tools or powerful equipment like a lawnmower or strimmer offers its own risks that need to be taken into serious consideration. An accidental cut by one of your tools could lead to tetanus if you aren’t up to date with your shots, and an accident with the lawnmower could cause painful injury or damage to the property itself. Thick gloves can help to prevent nicks and scrapes, while adequate training and care can help to prevent any mishaps with electrical equipment.
Gardening means working with dirt, and while soil and potting mixes are often treated, they still may be at risk of carrying the Legionella bacteria. This particular bacteria causes flu-like symptoms and, in severe cases, issues with lung infections that will require antibiotics. While these are typically treatable, taking precautions may prevent you from getting sick at all.
Measures you can take to prevent Legionnaires include wearing a mask and gloves when handling soil and rinsing the gloves afterwards, ensuring you only open potting mixes in an open, well-ventilated area and dampening the mix with a light spray of water to reduce the number of airborne particles. Manufacturers may provide you with additional instructions, so make sure you check the packet first.
Plants and Insects
While you probably won’t come across any heavily poisonous plants in a residential garden, even harmless-looking flowers can pose an issue if ingested. Being aware of the risks so you can act accordingly if you do come across any will help you stay safe. Wearing masks and gloves when working in close proximity with any unfamiliar plants will help reduce risk, as will adequate training in plant types and their risks. Similarly, working in the garden around the soil could expose you to all kinds of insects and bugs. Some might have stingers, such as bees and wasps, so make sure you carry any medication needed for reactions if you’re allergic. Others may carry diseases, such as Lyme disease, so it’s important to take care to avoid contact with bugs where possible by wearing gloves, proper gardening boots and if your garden is heavily populated with bees and similar, a head net.
If you have a gardening business and want to make sure that you, your employees and your clients are protected this spring, we are on hand to help. Get in touch with the Ashburnham Insurance team for a quote today.