How safe is my garden? The question might be better phrased “how safe do you want your garden to be?” because no garden will ever be safe from every single threat to safety.
The approach needed is to assess what the threats are and then what the risk is of each one actually happening. Once you have this information you can then decide which threats you will need to do something about.
Example Risk Assessment
Let’s take a simple example to illustrate this approach. If you have a pond in your garden then there is a risk that a child might fall in and drown. Remember that only two inches of water is enough to drown someone if they have the bad luck to fall on their face. So the threat is one of drowning, and it is particularly high risk for small children and an unprotected pond.
If you have babies or small children who run around the garden, or your frequent visitors do, then the risk of that threat actually happening is quite high. If you are an older couple with no children and most of your visitors are adults, then although the threat is the same, the risk is lower.
Acting on the Risk Assessment
So the family in the first instance will probably cover the pond, fence it off or even remove it and the second family will be happy to do nothing, simply warning people with young children should they visit. Going through this process is called performing a risk assessment.
Go round the garden and ask yourselves a few questions. To put yourself in the mind of small children and others who might be more vulnerable, try crouching down to see your garden from their viewpoint.
Questionnaire to Identify Threats and Risks
Ask questions about the garden itself first. Here are a few examples but there may be others that are more relevant to your garden
- Do you have any ponds or water features with pools?
- Is your garden fencing or hedging secure and in good condition?
- Do any trees need pruning to stop limbs falling?
- Are any plants with sharp thorns or other protuberances within easy reach?
- Do any steps or stairs need handholds?
- Are all your tools and chemicals kept safely under lock and key?
- Can you see people in the garden from the house?
- Are there any poisonous plants in your garden?
- Is play equipment in good condition?
- Is the surface around play equipment soft?
Then ask yourself questions about the way you use the garden, such as:
- Do you have young children in the garden?
- Or are the visitors mostly adults?
- Do any people who use wheelchairs come to your garden?
- Will children play ball games in the garden?
- Do you have dogs or other animals in the garden?
- Can other peoples’ dogs or animals enter your garden?
- Do you cook on open fires such as barbecues or chimeneas?
Assign Risks to Threats
Once you’ve gone through a questionnaire like this you’ll have a list of the threats and can then allocate a risk to them. So if, for example, you don’t have any play equipment in the garden then the risk of children falling off it is nil. Then there’s no point in investing in soft material such as bark chippings.
You can then use hard materials like stone or concrete for paths and patios, but again you might want to rethink that if you have frequent elderly visitors who are prone to falling over.
Use Your Head
There’s no right or wrong with a risk assessment, just threats and your assessment of the risk percentages that accompany each one. You then need to seek solutions only for those threats with a high risk factor. But try to balance the safety requirements with your enjoyment of the garden.