Checking for Landscape Safety Hazards
Your kids spend the cold and wet Portland winter months cooped up inside, looking for things to do and ways to burn off a whole lot of pent-up energy. When the weather finally warms up in the spring, it’s a mad rush for bicycles, balls and frisbees. Children know only that it’s finally warm enough to play outside; they’re not thinking about potential yard hazards from winter. If you haven’t examined your home’s exterior carefully, your kids, their friends and your pets may be at risk for a mishap that could turn a long-awaited romp in the yard into a trip to the local ER. While most trips turn into a great story for the kids to tell their pals, it’s hair raising while it is happening.
Checking for safety hazards
You wouldn’t turn your kids loose in your basement or a rumpus room you hadn’t checked for safety hazards. You should approach your yard the same way because children and the family dog are going to spend a lot of time out there.
Trees and shrubs
Clearing away yard debris (fallen branches and sharp twigs) from winter storms, is easy to think of but looking up into your trees to ensure there are no broken but still hanging branches is a less obvious task. Loose branches are a danger to children playing under or near a tree and should be cut down and removed. It’s hard to see these loose branches once the trees are fully leafed. Also, check the ground around trees for unexplained disturbed soil, or excessive limb-drop. Either of these are a sign to call an ISA certified arborist to check on the health of your trees.
Shrubs and small trees can encroach into path and patio areas. Check that branches are not protruding into paths especially at eye level of small children and adults. While not all shrubs can be pruned in late winter and early spring, a single branch or two can and should be removed even when you are not sure about the proper timing for pruning.
Fall Landscape Hazards
Lichen and moss build up on walkways, patios and decks which makes the area super slick and slimy. They must be scrubbed, or pressure washed multiple times in winter and spring especially on the north side of the house or in shady areas. Be sure your lighting for your entry walk is functional especially if you live on a street with no street lights. The lighting needs to extend to the area where your guests park.
Examine the equipment
Your swing set and other play equipment look especially inviting to eager children throughout the winter. Take a few minutes to check it thoroughly before the kids swarm all over it. Make certain that there are no sharp points or edges, or exposed and rusty nails or screws that could cause a dangerous cut. Chains should be secure, and any stakes or stabilizing devices that keep the frame anchored to the ground should be tightly fastened to the ground.
If your swing set is made of wood, keep it stained and sealed to minimize fragments and prevent weather damage. If you didn’t store away detachable components, such as vinyl connecting parts, make sure they haven’t worn down to the point of breaking. Remember that all play equipment should be surrounded by sand, mulch or soft synthetic material to guard against injury.
Patios and wooden decks
Ice, rain and wind can do a lot of residual damage to a deck during the winter. Wooden planks and railings produce fragments and splinters, a danger to kids and pets. That’s why wooden decks should be stained and sealed at least every two years and they will last longer too. The heavy winter rains can wash away soil and undermine paths, patios and walls or re direct water to your foundation. Sometimes these changes happen slowly over a few years, but spring is a great time to assess water issues on your property.
Diligence and maintenance
If there’s one place your children and pets should be safe from harm, it’s their own backyard. Keeping them safe as they play and roam outside is a relatively simple task – it just requires diligence and routine cleaning and maintenance. Doing a thorough check of your property in spring is a great time to do this. It’s well worth it to see your little ones enjoying themselves outdoors after a long winter.
If your Portland area yard is overwhelming you, contact me for help with your residential landscape.