Ahhh, the backyard. Your own personal oasis, without the long drive to cottage country. As much as we’d all prefer a summer of adventure, let’s face it; COVID-19’s impact on our lives and communities means we’ll all be spending a lot more time in our backyards this year.
To ensure this summer is still a safe and fun one, take a look at these potential problem areas in your backyard before they cause trouble or injury to your family this summer.
Inspect the Fence, Plants and Trees
A backyard inspection should be your first step. This should be done every year so you don’t miss any hazards that emerged throughout the winter. This will vary depending on your backyard, but the key areas everyone needs to inspect include:
Begin your fence inspection with the gate. Make sure the fence can open and close freely; if this isn’t the case, check that the hinges are still properly aligned or if they need some lubrication. Double-check that the latch is securing properly to prevent animals or children from getting out unsupervised.
For the rest of the fence, you’ll want to look out for any loose boards that children or animals could slip through. Also check for nails or other sharp edges that are sticking out, rotting wood and that the posts are still secure.
Plants are one of the most beautiful parts of your garden, but certain ones present risks if they are touched or ingested. This is an especially important step to take if you have young children who may not realize the risks of ingesting things that grow outside, especially if they look similar to the foods they usually eat.
Check around the backyard to ensure no new plants, weeds or mushrooms have appeared, especially around the fence line. The Ontario Poison Centre has excellent resources if you’re not sure which plants could pose a hazard to your family.
Taking just a few minutes to inspect all of the trees on your property can prevent costly damages to your home and property.
Look out for signs that a limb is at risk of falling or getting too close to a powerline. If this is the case, contact a professional arborist to come proactively address the problem.
Store Tools and Equipment in a Safe Place
It may be easier to lean your tools up against the shed instead of putting them away every time you need them, but think of what could happen if your kids decide to “play gardener!”
Leaving tools and equipment around your backyard means they can end up in the wrong hands and also creates a tripping hazard. Storing them in the shed or other designated storage place is not only the safest option, but it will protect them from the elements to help keep them in good condition.
Lock Your Shed
Once you’ve safely stored your tools inside the shed, make sure you have a lock on it! The time it takes to get the key each time you need to go inside is far less of a hassle than replacing equipment and filing a police report and insurance claim because of theft.
Locking your shed not only helps to prevent theft but can make it harder for animals to get inside to avoid all of the damage they can cause.
Check Structures For Signs of Wear and Tear
The fence is one of the most important structures to inspect in your backyard, but you really need to be checking everything.
Your deck inspection should be similar to the fence, by making sure there are no loose boards or railings and checking for nails sticking out or other sharp edges.
For the shed, you’ll want to make sure that the lock is securely in place. You should also make sure the doors are opening and closing smoothly, there are no leaks in the roof and to seal any holes that could allow animals to go in and out.
This is also a good time to check in with your insurance company to ensure that any detached structures on your property are fully covered by your home insurance policy.
Play structures, from tree houses to swing sets and trampolines, also need an inspection before your kids use them for the year. Check for wear and tear on ropes and chains, sharp edges that need to be addressed and that no animals or insects have made themselves a hive or nest in them.
Give Your Kids a Backyard Safety Refresher
Creating a safe environment for your kids is one of the most important steps to take to ensure a safe summer but a bit of education will also go a long way.
Make it clear that they should never ingest anything from the garden. If you do grow fruits or vegetables, either make it very clear what is safe or have them always check with a parent first.
This is also a good time to review other safety rules, such as never leaving the backyard without permission, how to use play equipment safely, areas of the backyard that are off-limits and things they should never touch such as sharp objects or power tools.
Summer 2020 may not be the one from your dreams but that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad one. With Cayuga Mutual’s backyard safety tips, you can help ensure that spending time in the backyard is a safe and fun experience for the whole family.