A Cane Nearly Blinded Me: A Case Study

One the main considerations that we try to get over in Safe Gardening is that people need to be made aware of the dangers in gardens but then make their own choice about the precautions that they need to take. Gardening would simply be no fun if safety measures made it too difficult to do any jobs around the garden.

Cane Safety in the Garden

It’s often the case that a precaution that one person takes is derided by another and there was certainly some humble pie to be eaten the other day when I laughed at a neighbour’s canes.

They were short canes, about three feet high, in a bed in a poly tunnel supporting early sweet pea plants. These would be transferred to a tall cane framework outside once he was sure that the last of this year’s frosts had been.

The thing that I remarked on was that each cane had something on the top of it, a yoghurt carton, a drinks bottle cap, or sometimes the drink bottle itself. Because the canes were almost invisible, the effect was somewhat ethereal, with these items apparently floating in mid-air.

Think Before You Speak

“Blimey, health and safety gone mad!” I offered, in the spirit of helpful criticism, of course.

“What do you mean?” he replied.

“All those things on top of your canes,” I said, “I didn’t think you were the sort of person to worry about things like that.”

“Ah-ha,” he said, “did you not know that I was nearly blinded by a cane once?”

“No,” I replied, and he proceeded to tell me the story, a short and fairly obvious one.

Invisible Canes

It was in the garden, rather than the poly tunnel, on a sunny day and he thought that glare might have been part of the problem. It was also over twenty years ago so poly tunnels weren’t in people’s gardens at that time in any case.

He had been planting out herbs in the front of a bed in a house that he shared in Cambridge. There wasn’t much point spending a lot of money on plants as they would probably be out of the house within a year or two but he liked to have fresh herbs for cooking and felt it was worth doing.

“Because I hadn’t planted out the rest of the garden out I didn’t know the canes were there,” he explained, “and when I bent down to pick up a trowel a cane went straight into my right eye.”

Off to Emergency

One of his housemates called an ambulance and within half an hour he was in hospital in Cambridge having it seen to.

“They patched it up but really there was little they could do,” he told me, “the eye would heal in time but it was difficult to predict to what extent it would heal and the effect it would have on my sight.”

As it turned out, he now has about 80% sight in that eye but because the other one is still 20:20 it doesn’t cause too many problems.”

Learning from Experience

So having nearly lost an eye, he presumably now has a different attitude toward health and safety?

“Well, to some extent,” he laughed.

“The house was in a small village and the nearest pub was about five miles away. While I was recovering the bloke I shared the house with broke his leg, so the only way we could get to the pub was if I drove and he guided me! It was alright getting there, but getting back was a bit interesting sometimes.”

Well, as we said at the beginning, you have to make your own decisions about which safety measures you think are worth taking!