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Keven Moore: Like everything else in life, your backyard comes with its share of safety concerns

If your family is like mine, with the COVID-19 restrictions this year, your backyard has become an oasis and a very popular place for you and your family to enjoy and experience.

If it’s sitting on your deck in the morning, drinking a good cup of Joe and reading a book, to swimming, playing on swing sets, or cooking out this July 4, the backyard provides a great place to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends.

However, like everything else in life, your backyard comes with its share of safety concerns. As your riskologist columnist looking out into my very own backyard, I can count my fair share of potential hazards that could lead to a very serious injury or fatality that we should not overlook. Yes, we all have homeowner insurance to protect your financial liability in the event of a tragic event to a guest or visitor, but homeowners need to go the extra steps to mitigate those exposures to better protect your family, friends, neighbors and home.

Here are a few examples of risks and preventative measures to take to have a safe and fun summer:

Grills: According to the U.S. Fire Administration, about 5,700 grill fires take place on residential property every year, most caused by malfunctioning gas grills and July is the peak month for grill fires (18 percent) according to NFPA.org. Grill fires on residential properties result in an estimated average of 10 deaths, 100 injuries, and $37 million in property loss each year. Almost half (49 percent) of grill fires on residential properties occur from 5 to 8 p.m. The leading category of equipment power source is “gas fuels” (79 percent).

It’s easy to forget about a hot grill after those juicy steaks come off the grill, and forgetting to extinguish properly can be quite dangerous. It should be a given that every homeowner should be forced to purchase a fire extinguisher every time they buy a new grill — if you do not already have one within your home.

The placement of your grill is also very critical – keep grills away from siding, deck railings, overhanging branches, eaves other flammable and combustible materials. It is important to periodically clean out the residual grease inside the grill and to check for gas leaks if you have a propane grill. YouTube is a great resource to learn how to accomplish this.

Bonfires: Unfortunately, bonfire mishaps send thousands of people to the emergency room every year, and drinking alcohol often comes into play. Bonfires should be kept small and need to be at least 25 feet away from any structure and anything that can burn. You need to check with your city or county ordinances on the restrictions and determine what you can burn and not burn. You also need to Avoid burning on dry, windy days as a bonfire can quickly get out of control. It is also a good idea to have a hose or a bucket of water nearby in case that happens.

Trampolines: According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, trampolines cause about 100,000 injuries every year. Almost 300,000 of the injuries included broken bones. Children under 16 suffer nearly 93 percent of fractures related to trampolines. Three-quarters of trampoline injuries happen as more than one person jumps.

Every trampoline comes with a set of safety instructions and every family should teach and enforce those rules to keep people safe. Trampoline enclosures should be erected and only one person should jump at a time. Homeowners should periodically inspect the trampoline for wear and tear.

Backyard Playsets: According to a survey done by the Consumer Reports, about 25 percent of owners of a backyard playset had had a child injured on it. Most of the injuries involved minor cuts and bruises, but 10 percent were sprains, broken bones, concussions, or cuts needing stitches. Each year more than 200,000 children go to the emergency room with playground-related injuries. Most of these injuries happen when a child falls from the playset equipment to the ground, so it is very important to make sure your playset is on a safe surface. When purchasing a playset, you should do your research and put safety before price, and I would recommend that you compare safety ratings and then price before making that decision. You can also use the Outdoor Home Playground Safety Handbook to help you make that decision. Then you need to educate your children of all the safety rules, including their friends and neighbors.

Swimming Pools: According to the CDC from 2005-2014 there was an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings annually in the US. 1 in 5 of these deaths was children age 14 and younger. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that an average of 4,900 people received emergency care for injuries suffered in swimming pools or spas each year. Anytime there are children or guests an adult should supervise them when in the water and nobody should swim alone so have a buddy system.

Everybody that uses your pool should learn how to swim and if not they should be issued life jackets, and supervising adults should learn CPR. Adult swimmers should avoid alcohol for obvious reasons and pay attention to the weather and avoid lightning storms. All pools should be periodically inspected, and homeowners should erect a four-sided fence with a self-closing childproof gate.

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com

Another safety consideration should be to install a retractable pool cover and/or a pool alarm that can alert if someone enters the pool.

Decks: This is probably the most overlooked hazard in your backyard. Decks weather over time and some of the older decks may not have been built to code. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, approximately 4,000 injuries a year occur due to the structural failure of a deck or balcony. Decks generally have a 10 to 15-year lifespan and the question arises will they be able to withstand the expected load of a party or gathering. Decks should be inspected periodically after the winter months. Homeowners should look for splitting or rotting wobbly handrails or loose guardrails, missing or rusting anchors, nails, or screws. If you have a deck that had been nailed together you should look to replace with deck screws that are less likely to work their way loose. If your deck feels like it has any movement, you should stop using it immediately until it can be repaired or replaced.

The question at the end of the day for homeowners is, will your homeowner’s insurance policy cover any unexpected accidents or losses from any of these hazards? It is important that you consult your insurance advisor because every policy can be different and have exclusions that you may not be aware of. Another way to add a layer of protection to you and your family is to purchase an umbrella policy in addition to your homeowner policy.

Be safe, my friend

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