It’s likely there are more hazards in your backyard than inside your home. This page covers some of these areas and how you can keep them safe for you and your family.
Keep chemicals in their original containers. Never keep chemicals in old drink containers – they may look tempting to children.
Store insecticide, weed killer, flammable liquid, fertiliser and other dangerous substances in a locked container or cabinet, out of reach and out of sight of children.
As New Zealanders we love outdoor living and what better way to enjoy the pleasures of your indoor-outdoor flow than by building a deck.
However, just like any other area around our home, injuries can and do happen on decks, particularly through slips, trips and falls. But a few easy measures in deck construction and maintenance can go a long way to preventing nasty injuries:
- Safety barriers – under the Building Code, you must have a safety barrier around any deck that’s more than one metre off the ground, but it’s worth installing a barrier even if your deck isn’t that high.
The Building Code says a barrier must be:
- at least one metre high
- designed so a child can’t get a foothold between the heights of 15cm and 76cm (which could enable them to climb over)
- able to resist loads from people standing on the deck.
- Use vertical rather than horizontal slats that make it difficult for small children to climb over, but make sure the space between the slats is about the width of a tennis ball so they can’t climb through or get their heads stuck. Also, don’t put low seats near the railing and gate off any stairs leading to the deck.
- Decks are exposed to the elements and they can become slippery. To help prevent slips, trips and falls:
- slope the deck so rain water drains off and can’t pool.
- if your deck is wooden, use grooved slats and, for extra grip, run them at right angles to the direction you usually walk across the deck in.
- apply a non-slip finish to the deck; you can simply add sand to the paint or you can buy special non-slip applications.
- Maintain your deck by:
- sweeping the deck regularly with a stiff-bristled yard broom to remove leaves and grime, which can cause dampness and rot if left
- washing the deck with a mixture of bleach and hot water, or a commercial anti-mould agent, to get rid of mould and moss.
- checking your deck regularly for any signs of deterioration, including black stains around bolt holes or rot, especially where timber meets timber.
For more information on:
- exterior maintenance of decks, see Balconies and decks (external link) on the external website Consumer build
- the legal requirements for building decks, see Designing for outdoor living (external website).
Install fencing around outdoor decks, and use child-safe guards at the top and bottom of steps. Keep the gate to the road securely shut.
For information about fencing around swimming pools, see the Pool Safe website (external link).
Keep children away from motor mowers, weed eaters, etc. Store your equipment in a locked garden shed or cover securely with a tarpaulin.
Store any petrol or other motor fuel out of reach of children.
Put stickers or tape on large glass doors and windows to prevent people running into them.
More than half of all pedestrian injuries are sustained within sight of home. Don't let children play in the road, not even on your quiet residential street.
Children should be let out of the car only when an adult can supervise them directly. Make sure that luggage, prams, strollers etc are taken out of the vehicle first.
Always check for children around and under your car before driving away.
Fence off your driveway from your yard.
Check regularly for broken bottles, glass and cans, and remove any that you find.
Identify and remove poisonous garden plants and keep children away from these.
Supervise children closely around rubbish fires, incinerators, barbecues and fireworks.
Make sure any fountains, bird baths or statues are secure and stand out so they don’t fall over or trip people up.
- Use a firm, secure base and make sure they’re fixed solidly to the ground or wall (especially for large and heavy items).
- Plant flowers and install lights around the base of ornaments, and lift them above ground to help them stand out during the day and night.
- Build a decorative fence or grow a plant around larger ornaments to put children off climbing.
- Do a regular maintenance check and look for any loose or sharp edges.
- If you have a water feature using electricity, install proper electrical outlets by a qualified electrician. Another option is choosing solar power.
Ensure that there is good ventilation when using paints and chemicals or when the car engine is running.
Store chisels, hammers, axes and tools high up and out of reach of children.
Wear protective safety equipment – safety goggles, ear muffs and boots – when working with tools.
- Ask someone to hold the ladder steady, or let someone else know that you're working on a ladder before you climb.
- Set up your ladder at a safe angle and ensure the ladder is stable before climbing up. Remember the 1 in 4 safety rule – one measure out for every four measures up. For more information on ladder safety, see ACC4407 Ladder safety (PDF 165K).
- Secure your ladder at the top. If possible, tie a straight ladder to something stable as close to the point of support as possible to prevent movement.
- Reach only as far as you safely can. Keep your belt buckle between the ladder rails. Climb down and move the ladder regularly to avoid over-reaching.
- Keep your ladder in good condition. Check it once a year (such as when daylight saving starts) and make sure that it meets the New Zealand Safety Standard AS/NZS 1982.1.1996 (external link).
For more information, see Ladder safety.
Where there’s a lawn, there’s usually a lawnmower. And where there’s a lawnmower, there could easily be an injury.
To prevent the types of injuries that injure around 86 New Zealanders each week, and put approximately six of us into hospital each week, use your lawnmower safely and gear up correctly. Remember to wear the correct safety gear:
- Always wear closed-in shoes – you don’t want to run over your feet with a mower!
- Wear safety goggles in case something is flicked up from the blades and into your eyes. Even the dust and small pieces of grass can cause you problems.
- Protect your hearing by wearing earmuffs.
Noise induced hearing loss is usually attributed to damage from a build-up of sustained excessive noise, so it pays to reduce your exposure to it wherever you can. The rule of thumb is if you can’t hear someone who’s a metre away, then any machinery is too loud and you need to use hearing protection. Motor mowers usually fall into that category.
So when you’re mowing your lawn, take the time to wear sturdy closed-in shoes and use hearing and eye protection.
Always keep your hands away from the mower’s blades when it’s running and be aware of who’s around you when you’re cutting the lawn. Children can appear from nowhere and don’t understand the dangers of such an everyday piece of equipment. Watch where you’re going whenever you’re mowing.
Make sure paths and stairs are well lit at night. Sensor lights and solar-powered lamps are available from hardware stores.
Remove damp leaves and other vegetation from pathways.
Spray moss killer on paths
Moss killer is available from hardware stores. Make sure you follow the instructions for safe use.
Fill in any potholes
Small cracks and holes in paths or steps can be filled with an easy-to-use 'instant' cement mix, available from hardware stores.
Cut back overhanging trees and branches along pathways to ensure unobstructed walkways. Ensure that you are stable and safe when you are doing this. Wear non-slip, secure footwear and do not operate tools above shoulder height. If you need to get higher, use a secure ladder or hire a professional tree pruner or gardener to do the work for you.
Choose outside play equipment carefully. Many injuries happen on equipment more recommended for sports use than general playground use. They all require careful supervision.
For example, trampolines are popular but can cause many injuries. They are not recommended for general playground use and are best used only in supervised sports or gymnastics settings. Strict rules are needed – such as one person at a time to prevent collisions and falls.
Trampolines should be placed well away from fences or other structures. It's a good idea to install them in the ground (in a well-drained hole) to help reduce the height of falls. The springs and frame should be well padded.
Paint the edges of steps for greater visibility. Some exterior paints are especially designed for the surfaces that we walk on. Make sure that you select the correct paint for your particular surface (eg concrete or timber) and that you prepare the surface as required. Your local paint store should be able to advise you on which paint to choose.
Another option is to use metal or rubber grip tread strips, that you can cut to the required length and either glue or screw into place. Take care to walk slowly up and down steps and stairs.
Supervise children at all times around water. Don't rely on flotation devices to prevent drowning.
Empty your paddling pool when not in use. Dismantle or deflate it and store in a dry area.
Inadequate fencing and lack of supervision are common factors that contribute to children drowning in home swimming pools. Fence off garden pools, spas and swimming pools.
Fences around pools and spas should be at least 1.2m high with gaps no wider than 100mm. To find out more about legal fencing requirements, see the Pool Safe website (external link).
For more safety tips, see Water Safety New Zealand (external link).
Updated: 7 July 2016
Reviewed: 23 January 2014