"THE HEART OF THE MATTER"
a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA)
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Topic: Summer home and garden safety
Guest: Ron Hazelton, Home & Garden TV/ ABC's Good Morning America
Host/ Producer: Steve Girard
NEMA: Thanks for being with us today! We wanted to do a special show on some of the risks we take when we get into the swing of summer, and tend to our homes and gardens. You know... painting, refinishing furniture, building decks, mowing and treating lawns, cooking out, and taking care of pools. So, who better to touch base with than Ron Hazelton, the home improvement editor on ABC's Good Morning American, and host of Home and Garden TV's "House Doctor" show. Now, Ron has a special coming up on HGTV this month about safety in and around the house during the warm weather months. It airs Saturday, June 28th at 5 p.m. Ron, let's start with those of us heading out to the shed to get our mower and tools ready for lawn care....
RON: Yeah. I think that's a big part of spring and summer activities. We're outside and a lot of time in the lawn and garden. So one of the things we looked at is the safe use of lawn mower. Lawn mower is such a common part of life we really don't think too much about them in terms of safety sometimes but to begin with you always want to fuel a lawn mower when it's cold. There's a temptation when you run out of gas in a middle of a job to just pull out the gas can and refuel it. And the problem is if you get a spill on a hot engine you can have fire and possibly an explosion. So always wait for lawn mower to cool down before you refuel it. And a way to avoid running out of gas in the first place is to check before you start and start with a full tank. Second, examine the mower blade especially now because it's the beginning of a new mowing season and what you want to look for are blades that are badly eroded or chipped or worn. These blades can throw small pieces of metal at amazingly high speeds if they should break off. So if that's the case remove the old blade and install a new one. And any time you're working on a lawn mower... blade, engine or anything else always disconnect the sparkplug. The reason is if you should rotate that blade, we're talking about a circular lawn mower right now, if you should rotate that blade with the sparkplug in it's possible for that engine to actually start up when you've got your hand on the blade. When it comes to using a lawn mower take a few minutes and check the area that you are about to mow for stones, small pieces of wood, any kind of debris that could be picked up by the blade and again hurled at speeds...some people have told me that you can get a piece of debris moving almost at the speed of a bullet. It could embed itself, it can penetrate skin and certainly could do a lot of damage to your eye. Children and lawn mowers don't mix. The best advise I have for mowing your lawn if there are children around is to make sure that the kids are inside and supervised while you're mowing. And never, and I know this is really tempting, but never under any circumstances allow a child to accompany you to sit on a riding mower along with you. I've had several conversations with orthopedic surgeons who specialize in pediatric treatment, and it's horrendous the number of child related accidents that have to do with lawn mowers, that they treat every spring and summer. So kids in the house and supervised while you're mowing.
NEMA: Now I guess related to that is people will be using power tools a lot to do things around the garden or adding decks, or whatever. Those kinds of maintenance things where they have to pull out the electrical cords and set up the power tools and get themselves organized and get the job done. What in your experience have you found to be the big areas where people make mistakes and have accidents?
RON: Well, one tool that gets used a lot for spring and summer projects... especially deck building...is the circular saw. So I recommend that folks are going to use a circular saw this can be a very safe tool. It just requires a couple of cautions. First of all, always cut material on a solid work surface that's at a comfortable height. Usually that's going to be a sawhorse. But if you're going to be cutting pieces of plywood of other large panels make sure that they are properly supported so that when you cut through them you don't have part of the wood that's sagging down and binding the blade. What happens with a circular saw if that should occur is that the saw tends to, what they call, kick back and it literally flies back towards you and even though most circular saws that are sold today have got safety guards on them this can happen so fast that that blade can injure you before that safety guard has a chance to snap into position. Make sure that you've got a sharp blade. In most kitchens I go into, in two-thirds, the kitchen knives are not sharp. And it's true you can injure yourself more with a dull knife in a kitchen then a sharp knife, because what happens is you put excessive pressure on it and tends to slip. Well you can definitely injure yourself more easily with a dull saw blade because it tends to bind and kick back and you find yourself pressing with excessive pressure too. So make sure the blade is sharp. And the third thing I would suggest is to turn the saw over, be sure it's unplugged and clean off what's called the sole plate. That's that flat piece of metal that kind of rest upon the work that you're cutting. Clean that off because it tends to get, pitch tends to accumulate there and then I like to take a little bit of automotive wax, paste wax and just polish that down a little bit. It'll make the saw glide much more smoothly through whatever you're cutting. And if you're working outside again make sure that you are using a grounded extension cord. I would say if the cord is 25 feet or more in length it should be a number 12 gauge wire and that means 12 gauge wire with a ground. And in most cases, although in older homes this isn't true anymore, it's now required that that plug that you use for outside electrical tools have a ground fault circuit interrupter in it. If you don't have one in your outside receptacle I would suggest installing one. What this does is it senses any leakage in current, and shuts the circuit down before that electricity has a chance to electrocute you. The big danger in being outside and using electricity of course is that you're standing in wet grass or maybe even a puddle. And under those circumstances a tool that might have a current leakage could, in fact, be fatal.
NEMA: Now, one of the big reasons that motivates us to spruce up the garden is that we love to cookout. And sometimes, in pursuit of a good time, we forget about taking all the right safety steps. I know it's common sense, but let's talk about the kinds of mistakes we can make...the areas where you would advise caution while barbecuing...
RON: Well probably the biggest risk in cooking outside is in using the flammable starters. I know it's sometimes frustrating. You start a fire and then it doesn't take right away and everybody's waiting for that steak so you're tempted to put more starter on a fire that you've already lit, in hopes that you'll sort of bring it along more quickly. That's a very dangerous practice. What can happen is that the fire can actually follow the flame back up to the can that you're holding and can result in very serious burns. Also it's a good idea, any time that you're cooking over a barbecue, to use a long glove. It's sort of like a pot holder but this would be a glove that would extend about two-thirds of the way up your forearm. This protects you from any grease splashes from a sudden flare up if you're reaching over the fire and it also makes it really convenient to handle things that might get warm on the fire. So I'd like to suggest that you use those.
NEMA: And what kinds of prevention steps can we make that apply to using gas grills...we have a tendency to just pull them out of the cellar or the shed and just crank them up... I've talked with fire officials who tell me that propane accidents hurt a lot of people every summer....
RON: This time of the year those that haven't been used for quite some time so it's a good time to check the valves on your propane tank, the o-rings that allow you to shut the tank off completely, any rubber hoses of any kind that are taking gas to the burners ...those can deteriorate. There are situations where insects or sometimes rodents have gotten in there over the winter time and may have actually chewed on those. So the main thing to check there is the propane delivery system if you will and make sure that everything is working properly and not leaking before you start that gas grill up. And one thing that's very important in using gas is never attempt to turn, never turn the gas on a gas grill with the lid closed. If you should do that you could get an accumulation of gas in the bottom of the grill, you open the lid, hold a match down there to light it and you can get a rather serious explosion. So, open the lid first... then turn on the gas and light it.
NEMA: People who have a pool know it can be a lot of work to maintain...and as far as safety goes there are really some plans you ought to put into affect to make sure it's a safe experience through the summer.
RON: When it comes to pool safety, I think for the most part we're talking about children, and particularly young children...and not allowing them to be in or near a pool without adult supervision. That's sort of the bottom line. But pools should be surrounded with fences or screened in enclosures with latches that children, small children cannot operate from the outside. So that if someone, say a visitor or a neighboring child from somewhere else in the neighborhood, should wander into the backyard. They should not be able to gain access to your pool. You want to store pool chemicals well out of reach of children, preferably in a shed behind a locked door. And keep at least some minimal life saving equipment nearby your pool. And I would say that would mean some kind of a flotation device that you could throw to someone in need in case the only person who can render help can't swim and some kind of a long pole that can be held out to someone who was in trouble.
NEMA: Ron Hazelton, Home & Garden TV's "House Doctor" and home improvement editor at ABC's Good Morning America, will be back with us soon to talk about refinishing chemicals, using ladders safely, and buying and designing safe play structures and grounds for kids.
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NEMA: Thanks for joining us for today's program. If you have any comments or suggestions, contact this station. Or visit our home page at: www.nemahealth.org/ ...for a look at transcripts of this or past programs, or to find out more about the National Emergency Medicine Association. I'm Steve Girard at The Heart of the Matter.
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Last modified: May 15, 2022