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Five Things in the Garden That Can Kill You

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What could be more fun than getting out and enjoying the garden? There is nothing like a bit of fresh air and exercise. But is it as safe as it seems? We explore the hidden perils lurking in the garden to discover what might happen if you are really, really unlucky.

Number 5: Chainsaws

The dangers of a chainsaw should be pretty obvious. There's a good reason it wasn't called 'The Texas Hand Trowel Massacre'. But its ok, just keep the angry end pointed away from you and you'll be fine, right?

It's not that straightforward. A knot in a piece of wood, or a bit of wire that you didn't know was there, can cause the blade to kick back violently. If it cuts through wood, just think how much more easily it will go through...something that offers a bit less resistance. If you are really being reckless and working with the chainsaw over your head (yes, people do it) then you might find yourself taking the height out of more than just the tree.

Then there's the chain. if you ignore the manufacturer's instructions, you risk overtightening it. This can overstress it, causing it to snap. It's like a high-speed whip made of metal teeth...what a treat!

So, if you don't want to be another gruesome statistic, hire a professional or learn what you are doing - and buy the right safety equipment! Otherwise, you risk chopping off something you'll miss and annoying your neighbours with a lot of dreary screaming.

Number 4: The shed or garage

Ah, that trusty old pre-fab garden building. Ordered from a catalogue and built one sunny weekend back in the 1950s. It has kept generations of lawn mowers and garden tools safe and dry, even through the harshest winters. Things were just made better back then. The question is, made from what?

Buildings made from wood, metal or concrete are pretty safe, unless the collapse on you of course, but there was a new 'wonder material' they were using in literally thousands of buildings at the time. It didn't rot, it didn't burn and it was cheap and easy to use. The only downside, as it turned out, is that it can kill you.

Asbestos, a naturally occurring material, was widely used in building industry due it’s durability, including in the construction of pre-fabricated garages and sheds. Although it’s use has been banned for decades, it is not known how many buildings still contain asbestos and, more worryingly, what condition they are in. While relatively safe if left undisturbed, inhaling even a small amount of loose fibres can cause severe lung damage, including cancer, even decades after exposure.

So, if you have even the slightest suspicion that you have anything made from asbestos, contact a professional.

Number 3: Lawn Mowers and power tools

Moving blades, electricity and maybe a bit of petrol thrown in for good measure. The horror movie scene pretty much writes itself, doesn't it? Lawn mowers alone put 6500 people in hospital every year in the UK and it's not just the obvious slice and chop from an unwanted interaction with the sharp bits. There is also electrocution from severing the cable, burns from hot petrol engines and a lot of unpleasantness caused by running over things and turning them into high-speed projectiles. Lawn mowers are not the only hazard though. Hedge trimmers and garden shredders also account for thousands of accidents, and although very unlikely to kill you, still run the very real risk of ruining your touch typing.

So, wear gloves, avoid the gravel, watch out for the electrical cable, and don't mow barefoot if you want all your little piggies to make it home in one piece.

Number 2: Chemicals

In the dark, dark shed there is a dark, dark shelf. And on the dark, dark shelf, some chemicals live. There is probably some plant food, maybe some weed killer and possibly a bit of fertiliser. But what about that little bottle at the back, you know, the one with the faded label that's been there forever.

Modern chemicals and garden products are tightly regulated and extremely safe, provided of course, that you use them as directed and don't suddenly succumb to the urge to drink them. However literally hundreds of chemicals have been taken off the market over the past several decades because of the harm they cause to human health and the environment. That little bottle that grandad bought in the garden centre in 1978 might contain something that has been banned for years...because it's actually incredibly dangerous.

So, do an audit of the chemicals you have and check online to find out what is still legal and what is not. The fact that its good at killing weeds is not a reason to keep it, because it might just be good at killing everything.

Number 1: Trips or falls

The single biggest hazard in the garden doesn't involve sharp tools or high voltage misadventures, its simply from falling over. While most falls lead to nothing more the bumped posterior, a bruised ego and some unsympathetic chuckling from a 'loving' family member, some can be much, much worse. Although the risk of going down so hard, you never get back up is vanishingly small, nearly half of the 300,000 people in 2017 who got it so wrong in the garden that they wound up in hospital, nearly half over them did it by falling over.

Whether it's caused by wet leaves, loose slabs or a garden hose lurking in the long grass, your garden can be full of potential hazards just waiting to, quite literally, trip you up. Things get worse as you get older too. As you age you are both more likely to have a fall and more likely to spend a long time recovering.

So, move or tidy away any potential trip hazards, buy some decent garden shoes (that actually fit) and most importantly, look where you're going.

These are just 5 things in the garden lying in wait for the unfortunate. There are many more. But don’t hang up your gardening gloves just yet, in 2017 only 300,000 people needed hospital treatment in the UK from a gardening related injury, out of a population of 67 million, which makes gardening pretty safe overall.

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