27 February 2007

Mowed down by your lawn?

If you're the owner of a lawn, you'll know that lawns grow in adverse proportions to your savings. In short, the former does and the latter doesn't.

If you're the owner of a lawn, you'll know that lawns grow in adverse proportions to your savings. In short, the former does and the latter doesn't. But if you take a look at everything that can go wrong, the two might not be unconnected.

Weekends are not for relaxing. They're for doing all those things that have been neglected during the week when you've been at work. Cleaning the car, the pool, the garage – and mowing the lawn.

So what does your lawn look like? Do you measure your suburban worth by its appearance? Does it have dead yellow patches, sections next to drains that grow three times as fast, or horror of horrors – large sections of brown soil in between straggling blades? Or is it knee-high, revealing the depressed disinterested state of mind of the owner?

If your lawn needs regular mowing, there are all sorts of things you should know about lawnmower safety, according to the Duke University Medical Center in the United States. Lawnmower accidents can maim or blind you, or others standing close by.

Feel tempted to rip out the lawn and brickpave the whole lot? Before you do, consider these safety precautions. Remember, your kids like playing on the lawn. And falling on grass does very little damage, whereas hitting solid brick can break legs.

Sticks and stones. Remove sticks, stones and other debris from the grass before cutting. Check carefully, especially in long grass. Anything solid lurking in the grass can become a projectile if hit by a lawnmower blade. It doesn't take much imagination to see what that could do to your bedroom window or a child's eye.

Get rid of the family. No, not permanently. But mowing the lawn is not an activity in which the whole family should take part. Small children, especially, should be kept indoors or taken on a shopping trip or on a visit to granny. Or at least be kept indoors – as should pets.

A real blast. Petrol is dangerous stuff. Just one spark is needed to ignite it. You might lose a lot more than your eyebrows. If it is a petrol lawnmower, do not fill it up while it is still hot from use.

A culture of service. Old lawnmowers could be dangerous things. When last did you take a look at how lethal that blade looks? Imagine if it were spinning like the blade of a fan. Have the lawnmower serviced regularly. You don't want it to fly off the handle – children have been killed in this manner.

Protection is everything. Your eyes and ears can take a real battering from a session on the lawn. Goggles are recommended, as are earplugs. Flying stones could do lasting damage to your eyes and the close-up roar of the lawnmower engine could put your ears through an unpleasant workout.

Boots and all. Don't mow the lawn barefoot. A protruding toe and a lawnmower blade don't go together. Ouch! And cloth slippers will not do the trick. Get real protection for your feet.

No drinking and driving. Stranger things have happened. Several years ago a man was arrested for being drunk in charge of one of those riding lawnmowers. You wouldn't operate other heavy machinery while you've had several too many. It's also not OK to mow the lawn. Apart from the patterns on the lawn revealing your drunken state, you could end up in the local trauma unit.

Switched off. The mower stops working suddenly, because something is causing an obstruction. You wouldn't look inside the barrel of a gun to see why it didn't fire. For heaven's sake, don't try and remove grass or debris from a lawnmower that has not been switched off.

Not for kids. A lawnmower is not a toy. The Duke University Medical Center recommends that a child should be at least 12 before operating a push mower, and 14 before getting to grips with a riding or electric lawnmower. Kids can help to pick up leaves and clear debris off the lawn before and after you've mowed it. Get them out of the way while you are busy.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24)



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