Has the Covid-19 pandemic have you spending more time in your own outdoor space? If so, you probably considered adding more enjoyment and/or functionality to get the most out of your backyards
Backyards can be an escape from reality, a safe place for your children to play, or add space to your kitchen as the smell of grilled burgers fills the air.
However you slice it, the time you and your family spend in your backyard needs to be safe.
Backyards can be dangerous. Especially when you add recreational toys like a trampoline or pool. Even the use of a BBQ adds risk to your backyard space.
Let’s dive into where the risks are in your backyard and what you can do to prevent damage or injury from happening in the first place.
Backyard Safety Topics on This Page
- Fire Safety
- Deck Safety
- BBQ Safety
- Pool Safety
- Trampoline Safety
Backyard Fire Safety
Whether it’s to set the mood on a cozy summer evening, crisp Fall and Spring nights, or bundled up in the cold Ontario winter, spending time by firepits or gas fireplaces are a great way to extend the use of our backyards before it gets too cold. But inadequate supervision or improper use of fire pits and gas fireplaces can cause injury or severe damage.
In 2019, the average estimated loss per fire incident was $91,000. In comparison, the three previous years were $75,700, $71,700, and $68,400, respectively.
While the number of incidents has remained relatively steady, the cost of each loss is rising significantly.
Gas and Propane Fires
Gas and propane fireplaces are a convenient and affordable way to enjoy the warmth of fires in your backyard, especially as the air cools in the evening.
Warm nights are the perfect time to roast marshmallows. But inadequate supervision or improper use of fire pits can cause injury.
Municipalities often have by-laws or other restrictions when it comes to fire pits and/or open air fires. For example, most of Ottawa has an “Open Air Fire (By-law No. 2004-163)” which restricts most homes within the Ottawa core from having open air fires.
Are fire pits covered by home insurance?
As long as the use of a fire pit is legal in your area and you’re using it as intended, damage caused by a fire is typically covered by home insurance in Ontario.
Home insurance includes property coverage, the building itself, its contents, and liability insurance in case someone gets injured or causes damage.
Safety Tips for Backyard Fires
Fire is one of the leading causes of home insurance claims in Ontario. So, it’s important to keep these fire safety tips in mind:
- Be aware of local bylaws or advisories as they relate to fires to avoid the risk of wildfires or fines
- Ensure the area is properly ventilated
- Ensure carbon monoxide (CO) testers are working properly in your home
- Place fire pits in a safe distance away from your home, backyard deck, or low-hanging tree branches
- Fires are safer after dark when it's easier to keep track of sparks and embers that may land in unexpected places
- Be aware of blowing leaves and debris as these can cause a fire to spread
- Don’t add flammable liquids to help ignite the fire
- Never leave a fire unattended
- Always keep safety equipment nearby (e.g., hose, buckets, fire extinguisher)
- Gas and propane tanks should be placed or stored in a safe location where they won’t be knocked over or run into by a vehicle
- Promptly dispose of old tanks
- Never bring propane tanks indoors
- Consider trading in the tank when it reaches its expiry date or when it shows signs of damage.
- If you smell gas, shut the appliance off at the tank and don’t use it again until the leak has been properly identified and fixed
- Always require adult supervision around fires while in use and until it has cooled off
- Use sand to fully extinguish an open fire
- Let coals cool completely and dispose of them in metal containers
- Implement a fire safety plan in the event of a fire in your home
Backyard Deck Safety
Decks take an awful beating all year round. The weather like sun, rain, and snow alone can lead to damage, causing accidents like trips and falls.
Other causes of damage to your deck include bugs, loose fasteners, mould, rot, and simply time.
Fortunately, these dangers can be addressed with these backyards deck safety tips:
Safety Tips for Backyard Decks
- Ensure railings and banisters are secure
- Ensure railings and banisters are high enough to keep people safe. Many building codes require a minimum railing height of 91 cm (36”)
- Rails should be spaced 10 cm (4”) or less to keep small children and pets from squeezing through
- Ensure all steps are securely attached
- If there’s an opening between steps, the space should be 10 cm (4”) or less
- Keep steps clear of planters, décor, and other tripping hazards
- Replace damaged or rotting wood to maintain strength and integrity
- Tighten any loose nails, screws, etc.
- Replace rusted or corroded fasteners
- Clean away leaves and debris that can be slippery and cause mildew
- Avoid placing seating at the edge of the deck
- Test all outdoor furniture to ensure each piece is sturdy
- Keep deck-related chemicals safely stored away from children and pets
- Consider adding outdoor lighting to light up tripping hazards in low-light conditions
- Secure rugs and mats in place with non-slip pads or rug tape.
Backyard BBQ Safety
Many backyard gatherings are centred around the BBQ and your home’s resident chef as they create enticing aromas. Despite how great grilled food tastes, gas and charcoal BBQs account for thousands of fires on residential properties each year.
Safety Tips for BBQ Safety
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instruction before using your BBQ
- Don’t let children or pets near the grilling area when cooking until the BBQ is completely cool
- Place your BBQ at least one metre from other objects, including your home, trees, and outdoor seating
- Ensure your BBQ is placed on a level surface to prevent it from tipping over
- Only use starter fluid for charcoal BBQ grills; never use starter fluid with gas grills
- Check the connection between the propane tank and the fuel line to make sure it isn’t leaking and is working properly before using a gas BBQ
- If you suspect your gas BBQ is leaking, turn off the tank and get it repaired before lighting. Never use a match to check for gas leaks
- Don’t bring your grill into an unventilated or enclosed space like your garage or inside your home. This is not only a major fire hazard, it’s also a carbon monoxide (CO) hazard
- Never leave your grill unattended
- Use BBQ cooking utensils that have long handles and heat-resistant mitts to prevent burns
- Don’t use BBQ cleaning brushes with metal bristles. The metal bristles can come off over time, stick to the grill, and end up on food that could be accidentally swallowed
- For gas BBQs, always shut off the gas valve
- Let the gas in the hose to burn off, then turn off the burner controls
- For charcoal BBQs, make sure the charcoals are completely cooled off before disposing of them
Backyard Pool Safety
Though splashing and diving is carefree fun for many swimming enthusiasts, owning a backyard pool comes with serious responsibilities, too. From poolside safety tips to supervision, there are many general safety precautions you should take to make sure everyone enjoys your pool safely.
As the homeowner, you’re responsible for the safety of all swimmers.
Safety Tips for Backyard Pools
- Install a fence with self-locking and self-closing gates to completely isolate your pool from your house and the areas around it
- Don’t leave your children or guests alone in the event they would need assistance
- Teach pool rules to your children and guests and post them in a highly visible location
- Don’t stick your fingers in grates and filters
- Don’t swim for at least 30 minutes if you hear thunder or see lightning
- There should always be at least one sober adult to stay on constant alert for swimmers in distress
- Without discouraging too much fun, don’t allow swimmers to horseplay in the pool
Minimize Disease and Chemical Risks in Your Pool
- Keep the pool water properly filtered and chemically treated
- Don’t allow swimmers to drink pool water
- Keep pets out of the pool
- Don’t allow swimmers with open wounds or illnesses to go in the water
- Don’t allow babies to swim unless they are wearing swim diapers
- Avoid over-shocking the pool; keep chemicals at the proper levels
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully when adding chemicals to the pool or filtration system
- Store chemicals in a cool, dry place where they are away from fire hazards and lawn care products
To minimize the event of a pool emergency in your backyard, remember these tips:
- Take lifeguard, first aid, and CPR courses in case anyone needs assistance while on your property
- Once old enough, your children should receive the same training
- Enroll your children in swimming classes led by a qualified swim instructor
- Keep rescue equipment and a telephone to call 911 close to the pool area
- Place emergency numbers and CPR instructions close to the pool.
Pool Owners Should Consider Personal Umbrella Liability Insurance
Backyard Trampoline Safety
Trampolines can provide hours of entertainment and fun for the whole family—especially young children.
However, there are several liability risks trampoline owners need to consider to keep loved ones safe. That’s why it’s important to inform your home insurance broker if you have and use a trampoline on your property.
It’s important to notify your home insurance broker for two reasons: provide the value of the trampoline to get an accurate replacement value and to inform your insurer of the increased liability risk.
Safety Tips for Backyard Trampolines
- Supervise all users on the trampoline, regardless of their age or experience level
- Only allow one person on the trampoline at a time
- Don’t allow children under the age of six to use a trampoline
- Don’t place a ladder near a trampoline because it welcomes younger children to climb up and start jumping
- Don’t allow jumpers to do somersaults or flips, as they could land on their necks or heads incorrectly
- Don’t allow jumpers to use the trampoline as a way to jump onto other objects
- Securely attach safety padding to cover the hooks, springs, and frame
- Setup the trampoline on level ground away from trees and other obstacles
- Install safety netting around a trampoline to provide fall protection
- Inspect the trampoline before each use to make sure that the springs are secure and that the bed does not have any tears or holes
Backyard adventures provide so many great memories for families and by ensuring everyone is cooking, playing, and entertaining safely will ensure positive backyard memories for years to come.