NORTHBROOK, Ill., March 10, 2009 – With some families operating on tighter budgets this year, Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an independent product safety organization, encourages consumers to be cautious when deciding whether to "reuse" or "replace" their spring cleaning tools this season. Whether that means hauling out the lawn mower from the garage, sprucing up your home with a fresh coat of paint or gardening, remember to consider safety when heading outdoors and cleaning around the house.

"When you’re finally in the spring cleaning mode the last thing you want to do is take a trip to the emergency room," says John Drengenberg, manager of Consumer Affairs at Underwriters Laboratories. "Yet more than 350,000 people do each year from injuries associated with improper use of ladders, lawn mowers and power garden tools. So if you’re cleaning out the gutters, mowing the grass, or brightening up the exterior of your home with a new paint color, following a few precautions can keep your family safer."

UL recommends following these simple tips to make sure safety is a priority in your spring cleaning routine: 

  • If you’re re-using last season’s lawn and garden power tools, be sure to inspect them for frayed power cords and cracked or broken casings. If the product is damaged, have it repaired by a qualified technician, or replace it.
  • Keep your lawn and garden tools in good shape for next year’s spring cleaning season. Never carry them by the cord, and never yank the cord when removing it from a receptacle. When disconnecting the cord, always grasp the plug – not the wire. Keep the cord away from heat, oil and sharp edges.
  • When pulling out the lawn mower for the first time this year, refresh your memory and read the owner’s manual and know how to stop the machine in case of an emergency.
    • If you have a gasoline-powered mower, store the gas in a UL Classified safety can.
    • Always start the mower outdoors. Never operate the mower where carbon monoxide can collect, such as in a closed garage, storage shed or basement.
    • Do not operate an electrical or gas-powered lawn mower on wet grass.
  • When you’re done using your power tools and garden appliances, store them away from water sources to avoid electric shock. Never use power tools and appliances in the rain.
  • Whether it’s brand new or been through a couple of spring cleanings, if you’re using a ladder, remember to read the instructions and warning labels before using. These instructions help you choose the proper ladder for the job and describe ladder weight and height limits.
    • Remember the 4-to-1 rule. For every four feet of ladder height, the bottom of the ladder should be one foot away from the wall or object it is leaning against.
    • Use fiberglass ladders whenever there is a possibility of working near electricity or overhead power lines.
  • If you’re purchasing new tools this spring look for the UL Mark, which means that representative samples of that product have been tested to stringent safety standards with regard to fire, electric shock and related safety hazards.

As the leading safety testing and certification organization in North America, UL has conducted product safety testing for 115 years. Each year, 21 billion UL Marks appear on more than 19,000 types of products – from lawn mowers to stoves – all of which have been evaluated to meet nationally recognized standards. The UL Mark means the product has been certified for safety regarding foreseeable hazards, like electric shock, fire and mechanical dangers.