Ah, springtime. That glorious time of year when you suddenly realize the lawn needs mowing, the garden needs weeding and the house could use a fresh coat of paint. But with many families' budgets a little tighter this year, buying new spring-cleaning tools isn't always possible.
Using last season's tools is a good idea, provided they're in good condition and can be used safely. The last thing you want to do is take a trip to the emergency room. Yet that's exactly where more than 350,000 people end up every year, thanks to injuries from improperly used ladders, lawn mowers and power garden tools. So before you get too ambitious, take a few precautions to help keep your family safer.
- If you're reusing last season's lawn and garden power tools, inspect them for frayed power cords and cracked or broken casings. If the item is damaged, have it repaired by a qualified technician or replace it.
- Never carry a power tool by the cord or yank a power cord from a receptacle. When disconnecting the cord, always grasp the plug, not the wire. Keep cords away from heat, oil and sharp edges.
- When pulling out the lawn mower for the first time this year, refresh your memory by reading the owner's manual. Be sure you know how to stop the machine in case of an emergency.
- If you have a gasoline-powered mower, store the gas in a UL Classified safety can.
- Always start your mower outdoors. Never operate it where carbon monoxide can collect, such as in a closed garage, storage shed or basement.
- Don't operate an electric or gas-powered lawn mower on wet grass.
- When you're through with power tools and garden appliances, store them away from water sources to avoid electric shock. Never use them in the rain.
- Whether your ladder is brand new or it has seen a few spring cleanings, read the instructions and warning labels before using it. They'll help you choose the right ladder for the job and describe ladder weight and height limits.
- Remember the 4-to-1 rule. For every four feet of ladder height, the bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall or object it is leaning against.
- Use a fiberglass ladder if you're working near electricity or overhead power lines.