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Warmer weather means children will be clamouring to spend time playing in the garden. But before you let them outside you need to consider what situations and risks might cause them harm.
We’ve identified seven garden hazards you need to be aware of if you have little ones running around.
Find out what you need to do to enable children to play safely and have fun, without the risk of a trip to A&E.
Pools, ponds and hot tubs
A pool or hot tub can be the perfect way to chill out on a sunny day, but if you’ve got little ones you need to make sure the water doesn’t pose a risk to their safety.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) says that on average 40-50 children drown each year in the UK, especially during school holidays in hot weather. All it takes is three minutes of submersion in water for a life-changing injury to take place.
If you have a swimming pool, paddling pool, hot tub or pond, you should ensure that the water isn’t accessible by children, especially if they’re under six years old.
How to make pools, ponds and hot tubs safer
- Don’t completely rely on supervision. Supervision is important but you can’t always account for tiredness, distractions or a child simply wandering out of sight. That’s why putting safety measures in place is so vital.
- Fence off the pool, pond or tub. Make sure the gate is secure and without any large gaps or holes, and that it has a self-closing and self-latching gate.
- Have a cover fitted. It should be a rigid cover that won’t allow contact with the water if your child climbs on top of it.
- Keep other water vessels stored away. A water butt or even a bucket that’s left outside can gather enough rainwater to drown a curious youngster, so make sure these are emptied out and stowed away after use.
Swings, slides and climbing frames
There’s so much fun to be had in a garden with play equipment – but there’s also plenty of scope for accidents and mishaps, too.
Without being a killjoy, you can still help to safeguard against accidents so that children can have a good time in a hazard-free environment.
Although you can’t prevent bumps, bruises and falls, you can certainly help to minimise events caused by faulty equipment.
How to make swings, slides and climbing frames safer
- Provide a soft landing. The surface under play equipment needs to be soft enough to absorb the shock of falls, for example with wood chips rather than concrete or packed dirt. The European Child Safety Alliance says it’s fine to use grass ‘up to one metre in height’ as long as the grass is maintained and in good condition.
- Place outdoor climbing frames on firm ground. It should also be anchored on level ground to reduce the risk of it toppling over, and an unobstructed space of at least 1.5 metres left around it in case your child falls off.
- Check for sharp edges and exposed screws. Make sure that any products you buy are fit for purpose before they’re used, and check periodically for loose nuts and bolts that might render it unsafe.
- Follow the instructions carefully. If you’re unsure, contact the manufacturer directly or get a professional to assemble it for you.
- Check playground equipment on hot days. If you have equipment with a metal slide, handrails or steps, it might get really hot to touch on sweltering days and could cause burns. Check equipment after heavy rain, too, to ensure surfaces aren’t too slippery to be used.
- Avoid clothes with cords or drawstrings. Along with bags and necklaces, clothes with drawstrings could get caught on equipment and accidentally cause strangulation.
There’s no doubt that trampolines can be great fun – but they are also the cause of many children ending up in A&E.
RoSPA says that each year there are 13,000 trampolining injuries requiring hospital care, almost three quarters of which happened at home.
No one is saying you can’t have a trampoline, but it’s wise to follow some basic safety guidelines.
How to make trampolines safer
- Your trampoline should meet safety standards. Look for the European Standard EN71-14:2014 ‘Safety of toys – Trampolines for domestic use’.
- Choose a model that has safety pads. Check that these pads, which should be in a contrasting colour to the frame, cover the springs, hooks and frame.
- Pick a model with safety netting. This should ideally be part of the design or be bought at the same time as the trampoline. This netting should prevent those bouncing from hitting rigid components like springs or the frame.
- Go on one at a time. Children may protest that it isn’t such fun, but RoSPA says that 60% of injuries happen when more than one person is on the trampoline – and the person weighing less is five times more likely to be injured.
- Don’t let children under six on a trampoline. Hard though this may be, it’s because they’re not sufficiently physically developed to control their bouncing.
- Supervise – but don’t rely on this. RoSPA says that having a ‘spotter’ keeping an eye on the trampoline can greatly reduce the risk of incidents, but it adds that more than half of all trampoline accidents occur while under supervision. That’s why rules like ‘one at a time’ are so important.
Find out the best trampoline brands – as rated by parents.
If you have a greenhouse don’t let children play in it – it may look like a playhouse but it’s potentially dangerous, especially if someone falls against the glass and it breaks.
If you’re in the process of buying a greenhouse, choose one that has toughened safety glass rather than horticultural glass, which would splinter and smash into sharp shards if, say, a football or cricket ball were to land on it.
Toughened glass, which is around 3mm thick, not only makes it more resistant to the elements but also safer, especially if there are children around because it breaks in the same way a windscreen does. At the very least you should have toughened glass on the door and anywhere else where someone might fall onto the glass.
Mend any broken panes as soon as possible and make sure that the floor is kept free of any cables or hose pipes to reduce the risk of a child tripping if they do happen to venture in.
Also don’t leave seeds lying around as some may be hazardous. For example, if eaten in quantity the seeds of morning glory can cause diarrhoea and even hallucinations.
Berries, flowers and leaves
You may be tempted to fill your garden or outside space with stunning ornamental flowers, but before you do it’s worth knowing that some could pose a hazard to children.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Campaign for School Gardening advises the following:
- Teach children about plants. This includes not playing with them, not eating them without supervision and understanding that even edible plants may have parts that you can’t eat (for example, the leaves and flowers of potatoes and tomatoes).
- Don’t touch a plant unless you know what it is. If children are helping you with pruning or weeding, it can be a good idea to get them to wear gloves too.
- Clear away prunings or dug up plants. Keep them out of the reach of children, pets or wildlife, especially if you know they are toxic or may cause irritation.
- Research plants before you plant them. Check plant labels and seed packets for toxicity warnings before you buy or put them in. There are lots of ornamental plants that may look stunning but could cause irritation if touched, or sickness and poisoning if eaten. The RHS has a list of potentially harmful garden plants if you’re unsure.
Garden sheds, garages and garden rooms
There’s nothing more tempting for an inquisitive child than a shed or garage filled with interesting tools, boxes and bottles – that’s why keeping the door firmly locked is so important.
However, there are other safety measures you should take just in case a little one happens to wander in when it’s unlocked and unsupervised.
How to make sheds, garages and garden rooms safer
- Keep sharp garden tools in good repair and safely tidied away after use.
- Keep children away when using lawnmowers, hedge trimmers or doing DIY projects that involve using equipment in the garden or outside space.
- Always use a residual current device (RCD) when operating electrically powered garden tools and mowers – this is for everyone’s safety.
- Store poisonous substances such as pesticides and solvents as well as corrosive substances that could cause chemical burns on high shelves or in a lockable cabinet, and out of direct sunlight.
- Keep substances in their original containers rather than decanting them into jars or bottles that might be mistaken for food or drink and lead to poisonings. Product labels on pesticides contain vital information including active ingredients, dosage rate and the problem it combats – all crucial information to the emergency services in the event of an accident.
- Don’t keep flammable substances next to matches or lighters.
- If children have access to a garden room, make sure that it’s safe for them to use. For example, don’t put heaters in there that could end up being covered and potentially start a fire, and if it has a kitchen make sure there are no sharp knives or other kitchen implements that are easily accessible.
Barbecues and fire pits
The barbecue season is upon us so make sure you’re ready – and that includes ensuring you’ve thought about safety if there are lots of young kids around.
Don’t leave children unsupervised near a barbecue and remember that it can stay hot for hours after you’ve finished cooking.
The same goes for fire pits so make sure you extinguish the fire with plenty of water when you’ve finished using it.
Buying a new barbecue? Read and compare all of our barbecue reviews.