Don’t let these perils spoil your warm-weather fun

Our summer-safety guide will let the good times roll outdoors and keep you out of the ER

Published: July 2012

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Summer’s the time of year not only to grill and chill and have fun outdoors but also to tackle a number of exterior home chores and projects. If you’re not careful, however, that leisure and labor can present a minefield of problems. Our videos (above) and tips (below), including advice for your car and road trips, will keep you, your family, and your pet(s) safe.

Yard work

• Before you start working, survey the lawn and get rid of any objects that could become a projectile, and keep young kids and pets indoors or at a safe distance.

• Dress appropriately for the job. That means switching out shorts and sandals for long pants and boots. Also use adequate eye and hearing protection when you’re using a mower, string trimmer, or other power equipment. Use our specific safety information for chain saws.

• If you need to refuel after the work has started, wait for the engine to cool, and don’t fill up the machine in an enclosed space such as the garage or shed.

• If you need to make a blade- or wheel-height adjustment, turn the mower off and disconnect the spark plug.

When you're in the market for new outdoor gear, refer to our buying guides for mowers, string trimmers, chain saws, and leaf blowers.

Home repairs

• Before you bang in the first nail or any work, check the weather to make sure the conditions are right, and understand the difference between a watch and a warning.

• Use the right ladder for the job and set it up properly to avoid unnecessary safety risks. Inspect and maintain your ladder, and store it where it’s sheltered from the elements and away from moisture and heat.

Our circular saw and cordless drill buying guides help you choose the best of these tools.

Outdoor cooking

• Inspect the gas hose on your grill for cracking, brittleness, holes, and leaks. Also make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing and that all connections are secure. Replace any broken or malfunctioning parts.

• Check for natural-gas or propane leaks: Mix a small amount of dishwashing liquid and water in a spray bottle. Then open the gas-supply valve fully and spray the soapy solution at the connection point and along the gas hose. If bubbles appear, you need to change a part or fix a loose connection. Specifically for the valve, try tightening the connection. If that does not stop the leak, close the gas valve and have the grill repaired by a qualified professional.

• Also make sure the gas-supply tubes are clear of spider nests and debris. Five ways to botch your backyard barbecue offers more details.

• Follow the directions in the owner's manual and clean your grill regularly, especially the grease trap.

• When prepping food, wash your hands and all fruits and vegetables (including those you peel) as well as cutting tools and surfaces.

• Don't let raw meats touch the same surfaces as other food, and use a meat thermometer to ensure you cook to the proper internal temperature. Read 9 foods to handle with extreme care.

Our gas grill buying guide can help you decide which outdoor cooker is right for you.

Dealing with the elements

• On hot, humid days, prevent heat-related illness by staying indoors in an air-conditioned place. If you don't have an air conditioner, take cool showers or baths and during the day keep your shades drawn. Also use table or ceiling fans to circulate air, and open windows on opposite sides of your home to create cross ventilation. For more, read Stay-cool tips for hot days and nights.

• Avoid exercise, stay hydrated, and dress for the weather. 

• Protect your eyes from the sun. Choose sunglasses labeled as meeting the American National Standards Institute requirements for general-purpose use.

• Wear sunscreen. Apply 2 to 3 tablespoons of lotion on most of your body, or spray as much as you can rub in, then repeat. Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating.

Spare your kid the pain of a sunburn and decrease the risk of skin cancer later in life. When it comes to sunscreen and your child, reapply it often, and use it sparingly on babies. We also advise that you not use a spray sunscreen on your child.

Find out which sunscreens excelled in our latest tests and which ingredients you should be on the lookout for.

• Use insect repellent. The American Academy of Pediatrics now says deet concentrations up to 30 percent are safe for children over 2 months old, but young kids shouldn't apply bug spray themselves, and you should keep it off kids' hands. To minimize any possible risks from deet, choose a product with the lowest concentration that works for you and your children. Higher concentrations don't work better, though they do last slightly longer. Use no more than the label directs, and when you come home, wash the repellent off. Read How to deal with Mother Nature’s rashes and bites.


• Be sure your child always wears a helmet when riding a bike, scooter, or skateboard—a helmet can reduce the risk of brain injury by 85 percent. Set a good example and wear a bike helmet yourself. Refer to our helmet buying guide and Ratings to get the best fit.

• Don’t set up an inflatable swimming pool. From 2001 to 2009, 209 drownings in inflatable pools occurred, with the majority of fatalities being kids younger than 5. Get more details in our guide to keeping kids safe around the pool.

Cars and road trips

Prep your car for vacation. Check all fluids, belts and hoses, the battery, brakes, and tires (for wear and pressure). And don’t forget to keep your pet safe on the road. Read our guide to summer road travel.

Beware of summer heat. Every year, dozens of kids die of heat stroke when they’re left in a car on a hot day. Remember, even if it’s only 70° F out, a car can quickly heat to more than 120° F. To remind yourself that your kid is in the car, put something like a toy on the front seat or leave your bag or briefcase next to your child in the backseat.

Safety for teen drivers. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. Remind your teen to buckle up, put down the phone, slow it down, and limit passengers. For more. go to our special section on teen driving, and read 10 teen safety tips.

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