Humber Avenue Community Allotments
Health and Safety
All activities carry an element of risk and allotment gardening is no exception. Everyone needs to take health and safety seriously but it is also important not to become ‘litigation paranoid’. Good gardening is safe gardening, and many risks to both ourselves and others can be easily prevented.
Under civil law, and as set out in the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957, all plot-holders have a duty of care to anyone accessing their plot, and the pathways for which they are responsible. This includes both authorised and unauthorised visitors. HACA has a communal duty to ensure that common areas, such as the car park and main access paths are safe. The law requires that in all these areas HACA exercise at least a ‘reasonable’ level of care regarding safety. Although unlikely, a claim could be made for negligence when an individual suffered an injury because HACA did not take reasonable precautions. It is not possible in English law to exclude liability, for example by way of a notice. HACA are also obliged to comply with other laws, such as those regarding environmental and wildlife protection.
HACA Health & Safety Policy, although summarised in this document, is implemented through our Constitution and Rules, Newsletters, Web site www.haca.uk and introduction to the site by the Site Standards and Safety Officer (SSSO). In addition, four times a year, a risk and hazard assessment will be carried out by the Committee or designated persons, and appropriate actions taken both to minimise hazards and risks, and to update this policy.
A hazard is something that can cause injury, for example the road access, the parking area, power tools, exposed sharp edges. Hazards can sometimes be removed but may be inevitable. Risks are the potential threats caused by the hazards, for example injury from a hidden sharp edge, a vehicle accident. Risks can usually be avoided.
Injuries and “near-misses”, and any other safety-related issues must be reported to a an SSSO so that any existing hazard or risk can be eliminated and prevented in the future.
HACA will ensure that plots are free from hazard on renting to new Tenants, and to advise them of this policy and any known hazards.
Here are some safety rules:
- It is recommended that, particularly at quiet times, plot-holders inform someone where they are, and their likely return time. They should also carry a mobile phone.
- Emergency numbers are posted on the noticeboard and are regularly updated.
- Plot-holders should ensure that their plot and associated accesses are free from hazard: hazards may include sharp edges, exposed nails, improperly stored tools, hazards hidden within undergrowth such as discarded tools, improperly stored dangerous materials such as those listed below. Please remember that we are legally responsible for the safety of anybody who may enter our plots.
- Plot-holders must acquaint themselves with, and adhere strictly to, the guidelines regarding storage, usage and disposal of hazardous materials such as glass, pesticides, fertilisers, asbestos cement, oil, and fuel. These must be securely stored in the proper containers, and well away from possible reach by children.
- Plot-holders should acquaint themselves with the safe use, and storage, of tools, particularly power tools.
- Plot-holders should be vigilant for rats, rabbits and other vermin, and inform a SSSO if evidence of vermin is observed. Rats carry 70 diseases including Weil’s Disease, which can cause human death via contaminated water. Plotholders must be vigilant and report any signs of infestation, which include burrows, tracks, droppings and observing the vermin
- Plot-holders should report vandalism or other evidence of intruders to a SSSO and the Police.
- Plot-holders should ensure that the gate is kept closed at all times.
- It is recommended that you reverse your vehicle when parking as this has been shown to significantly reduce accidents.
- Digging the soil is one of the most physically demanding tasks in gardening, as it involves continued bending and straightening of the back when lifting a spade of soil. It needs to be approached with care, particularly if you are not used to heavy work. Sensible shoes are essential to save you from a forked foot or worse.
- Ensure that you do not leave broken glass and other hazardous materials on the allotment. If you discover a significant amount of rubbish underneath the soil, such as broken glass, plastics etc, then please contact the SSSO who can offer some assistance in removing it from the plot.
- Tetanus or Lockjaw. This is a serious infection caused by bacterium that lives in the soil and especially manured soil. It enters the body through the tiniest abrasion, scratch, thorn, puncture or cut and a few days or weeks later the illness hits. Please make sure that you have a vaccination that can protect you against tetanus.
- Skin irritations. Wear gloves and a long-sleeved shirt when pruning plants that can cause skin irritations for example ivy, euphorbia or rue.
- Garden tools can be a hazard if they are not stored properly or are left lying around the plot when not in use. For example upturned spades and forks.
- Ensure that pesticides and fertilisers and other chemicals are kept securely locked in their own cupboard in your shed, away from children and in clearly marked containers. Do not keep them in lemonade bottles or other food containers or leave them lying around your plot. If you must use chemicals, please keep them to your own plot and do not put them on your neighbour’s plot. They may garden organically and will not thank you for it!
- When using pesticides or fertilisers ensure to wear suitable clothing.
- Please ensure that pesticides or fertilisers are disposed of responsibly. Pesticides should never be included in household rubbish, burnt, placed in skips or poured into any kind of drainage system or watercourse. If in doubt please speak to the SSSO.
- A first aid kit is a wise addition to the tools kept in the garden shed. A small selection of adhesive plasters, antiseptic ointment, a pair of tweezers for removing thorns and splinters and a gauze or lint pad to use as a compress to stop the bleeding if you are badly cut.
- Humans are at risk of infection from handling animal manure. Always wear gloves when handling any type of manure. Fresh manure should be heaped for 6 months, giving time for e-coli to break down. It is the responsibility of the plot holders for basic hygiene and to check tetanus boosters are up to date
- Most power tools need specific safety and handling training e.g. power chainsaws, strimmers, lawn mowers with metal blades and rotavators. A large rotavator can be a bit of a strain to control, so take a while to get used to it. Power strimmers, shredders, all have their dangers as well. Always follow the manufactures instructions.
- In very hot weather, especially in green houses, it is possible, although very rare, for Legionella (Legionnaires’ Disease) to multiply in warm water to potentially harmful levels. Avoid storing potting media in greenhouses or spraying fine mists.
- People at most risk of drowning in ponds are children under three years of age. Risk from drowning decreases as a child’s age increases and so their understanding of the danger. Children should be supervised on allotments at all times and must not go on other tenants plots without their express permission.
Four times a year, the Committee will carry out a risk assessment of the site. This usually involves two people inspecting the site, identifying hazards, assessing risks, and deciding on actions. Risk assessment involves listing potential risks caused by these hazards, assessing the frequency that people are exposed to those hazards, the probability of injury and the impact of such injury. Some risks are so great that immediate action must be taken, some are severe enough that some action needs to be considered, and others may need no action.
Most injuries are easily prevented. Good gardening is safe gardening and it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that we garden in a safe manner.