Garden Tool Safety

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Follow our expert’s advice to help avoid accidents while using your lawn mower, chainsaw, weed wacker and other yard tools.

Spring is in the air. Soon enough it will be time for all those outdoor chores you either love or dread: cutting and weeding, pruning and shearing, trimming and chipping.

Whether you enjoy the tasks or not, there are a few good general rules to follow for all your equipment, says Ed Rzasa, technical author for advanced diagnostics at Sears Home Services:

1. First, read your owner’s manual before operating any equipment. “I can’t stress this enough,” Rzasa says. We’ve got most appliance manuals on our site. Just type in the model number, and we’ll hook you up.

2. Get a check-up. “Just like when you get your car tuned up, you need your tools maintained,” Rzasa says. “Engines can run poorly, they can misfire and create hazardous conditions, or a machine can lurch and jump around. If you have a Master Protection Agreement, Sears will come to your home and do a maintenance check-up on a riding mower at a reduced rate.” If your walk-behind mower needs a check-up, you can bring it into a store and we’ll check it out.

3. Wear eye and ear protection when operating garden tools. The rotary blade on a lawn mower, for example, can shoot out an object at speeds up to 100 mph!

Tips for Specific Tools

Riding mower

· Check that the engine runs smoothly and there’s fresh oil.

· Clean the air filter and blades and replace them if needed.

· Mower blades should be sharpened and balanced.

· Make sure the tire pressure is at the correct psi.

· If all looks good, start the engine and engage the blades. Then, lift yourself off the seat. “The engine should die,” Rzasa says. “That feature is so you don’t get run over by your own tractor if you were to fall off. And always check that there are no pets or children around once you get going.”

Walk-behind lawn mower

· Just as with a riding mower, make sure it’s regularly maintained and the blade is properly sharpened and balanced.

· Check that the wheels aren’t loose and that all your cables — including the safety bail, which cuts the engine if it’s released — are in working order.

Chainsaw

· The chain should be sharpened, Rzasa says, “so it doesn’t kick back and possibly cause injury.”

Weed wacker

· Examine the shaft for wear.

· Look at the cutting head — if it wobbles, it’s ready for a repair.

Chipper

· Check the blades for sharpness. If it has difficulties shredding, get it serviced.

· When using the chipper, “wear ear and eye protection and gloves,

keep your hands from the intake chute, and don’t wear loose clothing,” Rzasa cautions.

Electric trimmer

· The blades can be sharpened, Rzasa says, but they rarely need it.

· What’s more important is to keep the cord clear of the cutting blade. “I throw my extension cord over my shoulder so it’s hanging down my back and out of the way of the blade,” he says.

These power tools can be dangerous. By following these safety tips and making sure they’re properly maintained, you can have your yard looking great — and do so safely.