Be safe, be aware

Information sheet

Get yourself prepared for activities outdoors by revising simple rules to keep everyone safe.

  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s):

Ponds

  • Beware! Children can drown even in very shallow water.
  • Blue-green algae produce toxins and can be dangerous.
  • Pond edges need to be safe – some surfaces can be slippery. Bog gardens are unclear to children.
  • Never leave young children unattended in the garden if you have an open pond.
 

Surfaces and constructed items

  • Some surfaces become slippery after rain or frost. These include grass, paths and decking.
  • If the surfaces are constructed, ensure the edges are smooth and splinter free. Safety glass or toughened plastic should always be used in protective structures.
 

Insects

  • Teach your children to leave insects alone.
  • Teach them how to recognise different insects.
  • Most insects are very common, harmless and good for your garden. The most problematic are wasps, bees, red ants, mosquitos and midges.
  • Slugs and snails can carry salmonella (see hand washing).
 

Cats, dogs and foxes

  • Cat, dog and fox mess contains a particularly nasty micro-organism called Toxocara canis which can cause blindness. Check your school garden thoroughly and remove any excrement before children visit the area.
 

Soil

  • Check with your doctor that you and your pupils have an up-to-date tetanus injection. The soil contains many micro-organisms and not all are safe.
  • Make sure all cuts are covered and hands are washed after touching the soil.
  • Never let your children eat the soil.
 

Hand washing

  • Train all the children in your care to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after they have worked or played in the garden.
 

Tools

  • Children love to use tools, but they need to be supervised. Teach children to use and carry tools safely from the start. Ensure sturdy and suitable footwear is worn and that tools are kept below the knee. 
  • Gloves should be worn when using cutting implements such as secateurs or loppers.
  • Ensure tools are safely stored at the side of a plot during a session, or when they are cleaned and put away in storage at the end.
 

Garden chemicals

  • Try to use environmentally friendly alternatives to garden chemicals to control pests and diseases.
  • If you use fertilizers to feed your plants, ensure they are kept in a safe, locked place away from heat and water. Always follow the guidelines on the label.
 

Plants and fungi

  • Teach your pupils as early as possible about which plants will hurt them. Some can cause skin reactions such as Rue and others are toxic such as Laburnum seeds.
  • Children should never eat plants unless an adult has told them it is safe to do so. Even edible plants and fungi can cause allergic reactions in certain individuals.
  • Fungi are not really classified as plants and are in a group of their own. The majority are not harmful, some however are toxic. Children must be aware of this and wash their hands after touching fungi.
 

Rain and cold

  • Children can play outside in the cold weather provided they are suitably dressed- lots of warm layers and waterproofs!
  • Sun. Beware! The sun is more dangerous than we think - remember to encourage children to wear sunhats, sunblock and drink plenty of water. Stay in the shadier parts of the garden.

Stay Safe

For extra advice and guidance on safety in the garden read our resource 'Health & safety in the garden'.

To help you ensure everything is safe for you and your pupils use our RHS Risk Assessment Guidance Document. This lays out all the hazards of working in a garden and tells you how to control situations to preven harm coming to anyone. There is also a handy blank version of this risk assessment which you can fill out for your garden. Find this here.

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