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How to stay safe with gardening products

woman working in gardenWeed-killers, pest sprays, fertilizers and many other gardening products are considered ‘hazardous substances’. You should take special care when using, storing and disposing of these ​products to protect yourself, others and the environment. The Environmental Protection Authority has some simple tips for how to stay safe. 

For more advice call The Poisons Centre on 0800 764 766 (0800 POISON).

If a person is not breathing or is unconscious, call 111 immediately. 

Learn about the products you use in your garden

You can take your first step to making your home safer by learning about all the gardening products you use. A good way to start is by reading the label.

You should remember:

  • ‘Natural’, ‘organic’, and ‘environmentally friendly’ products can still be hazardous
  • You should always keep gardening products in their original packages or containers.

Have a think about what products you really need to maintain your garden, and seek advice from your garden centre or other places where you buy products.

You can make your home and garden safer by choosing products that are as gentle as possible, and by disposing of old products you don’t use anymore. Read the instructions on the label to make sure you dispose of your old products safely, or seek advice from your garden centre.

When you’re thinking of buying new products:

  • First consider if the job you want to do could be done another way – for example, pulling weeds by hand.
  • If not, seek advice to select the safest and most effective product for the job. The staff at the store where you buy your products may be able to help with this.
  • Avoid buying large quantities of a product unless you are sure you will use it soon.

 Take care while you garden

Before you get to work in the garden, check the back of all the products you plan to use to see what you can do to keep yourself and others safe. Make sure to:

  • If you are working on plants that are for eating, check the label to see how long you need to wait before the plant or vegetable will be safe to eat. Write this down somewhere so you don’t forget. 
  • Wear gloves, and check the label to see if you need other protection like a face mask or safety glasses.
  • Keep products away from your eyes and face, and off your skin
  • Choose a calm day. Wind can blow products into your eyes and face, or onto other people.
  • Be very careful if you are working near streams or other water. Many garden products should not be used near water. Never pour leftover products down storm water drains.

Do your bit for the bees

There are rules to protect people and the environment, and there are also some basic measures you can use to protect bees.

These include:

  • Consider if there are other options to spraying such as weeding and mulching.
  • Ask your local your garden centre for advice and always read labels before you buy and use. Do not buy or use products that don’t have labels.
  • Always read and follow the instructions on the product label.
  • Avoid spraying in areas where you can see bees foraging.
  • Avoid spraying budding or flowering plants.
  • Avoid spraying during daylight hours when bees are at their most active with foraging and pollinating.

When you are done

You have finished spraying, and put all your products away. Time for a few more steps to keep yourself and others safe:

  • Dispose of any used bottles or containers of gardening products according to the directions on the label. Never pour unused products down drains.
  • If you got any gardening products on your clothes, take them off and wash them. If you use a washing machine, make sure to wash these items in a separate load to your other clothes.
  • Wash your hands, and any other areas that may have come into contact with any gardening products

 Store your gardening products immediately when you’re done

You can keep yourself, others and the environment safe by making sure you store all your gardening products carefully in a place that is:

  • Hard for children or pets to access. The best option is in a cabinet or cupboard that is higher than they could reach or climb, with a locked or child-safe door.
  • Away from food, including pet food.
  • Far away from anything hot. Avoid places close to barbeques, fireplaces or other heat sources.
  • Clean and dry.

When putting your gardening products away:

  • Keep all products in their original packaging.
  • Clean any drips or spills from the outside of the bottle or container.
  • Check the bottle or container is closed properly.
  • Make sure the product has not expired. If so, dispose of it according to the directions on the label or seek advice to find out how to dispose of it safely.

Take extra care to protect children

Be extra careful if you have young children or pets. Some garden products could make them sick if they eat or drink them. Make sure to:

  • Keep young children away while you are using gardening products
  • Read the label to check how long you must keep away from an area after it has been treated, and follow this advice carefully. If there is nothing on the label to tell you to stay away from the area, then keep children away at least until the spray has dried.
  • Put away all gardening products as soon as you are finished with them. You should store them in a locked or child-safe cupboard that is out of children’s reach and sight.
  • Consider avoiding pellet-type products, such as snail poisons and fertilizers. These can be attractive to young children, and they won’t be able to tell they are dangerous so may eat them.
  • If you throw away old or unused products in your household waste, make sure the rubbish bin is somewhere children can’t get to. Children can get into rubbish bins, and may get sick if they get into the unused garden products.
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