Preparing your garden for winter can make all the difference when it comes to planting next spring. And while you’re helping Mother Nature prepare by clearing away falling leaves, weeding your garden, trimming trees and bushes, and cleaning the gutters, stay safe and well prepared.

Unfortunately, anything that involves ladders, power tools, slippery surfaces and manual labor can cause injuries. Following these five simple tips can reduce your risk of injury while helping set up another successful season.

1. Get dressed

Avoid wearing slouchy, loose clothing or any jewelry — it can easily get caught up in the tools you’re using to clean up your yard. Nonslip sturdy footwear will help protect you against falls and shield your feet from dropped objects. Heavy gloves ward off cuts, blisters and the annoying after effects of exposure to poisonous plants.

If you plan to break out the chain saw, leaf blower or weed wacker, eye and ear protection are essential. Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying debris, and earplugs to reduce the sound of loud machinery to a safe level. Just two unprotected minutes of exposure to the sound of a chain saw can cause permanent hearing loss, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

2. Stretch

Precede your weekend workouts with some gentle stretching and walking. According to the American Heart Association, “a good warm-up before a workout dilates your blood vessels, ensuring that your muscles are well supplied with oxygen. It also raises your muscles’ temperature for optimal flexibility and efficiency. By slowly raising your heart rate, the warm-up also helps minimize stress on your heart.”

After you’ve completed the work, take the time to cool down instead of flinging yourself on the couch. Slow stretching after exercise keeps blood flowing through your body, while an abrupt stop to activity can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to drop rapidly, leaving you dizzy and nauseous.

And if you rarely get a chance to exercise, you might want to discuss ways of safely getting more activity into your life with a health professional before engaging in prolonged strenuous activities.

3. Pay attention

Repetitive activities can cause your mind to wander. It’s important to avoid those meditative moments when you’re involved in activities that require your full attention. And a lot of yard work requires you to stay alert.

For example, 58,765 Americans were injured by handheld garden tools last year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. Another 86,805 people were hurt by “lawn and garden equipment,” and this does not include lawnmowers, which were involved in 91,825 separate accidents.

While you might not think of your garden implements as potentially dangerous objects, ladders are an obvious hazard. That’s why most ladders, except for the simplest models, come with safety instructions. Follow them — injuries occur when people don’t make sure the ladder is stable before climbing up or stand above the safe level as stated by the manufacturer, according to the American Ladder Institute.

In general, if you think you might be pushing the safety boundaries a little too hard, stop. Figure out another way to get the chore done, which may mean hiring a professional.

4. Safety first

If you live in a neighborhood that allows you to burn yard debris, avoid using accelerants on the fire. What works on your grill is not going to be safe on a much larger bonfire.

And never try to clear that annoying poison ivy patch by tossing the vines and leaves into the fire. The plants may seem dead at this time of year, but urushiol — the oil in poison ivy plants that irritates skin — is still active. Just a quarter-ounce of urushiol is enough to give the entire population of Earth an itchy, ugly rash. Inhaling the fumes of the burning plant can cause significant discomfort and may harm your respiratory system, even if you’re one of the lucky few that isn’t allergic to urushiol.

Be equally careful with your gasoline-powered tools. Don’t refill a tank while equipment is running or still hot. Obviously, you should never smoke or have an open flame around gasoline or other flammable liquids.

While we’re talking about unfortunate elemental interactions, keep the electric power tools away from water or wet environments. And make sure to use extension cords that can safely power the tools you are using them with, are intended for outdoor use and are in good condition.

5: Sit back and relax

If you’re just not feeling inspired to do a big yard cleanup, that may be OK. The Audubon Society encourages people to leave their yards a little messy, in order to provide food and safe shelter for birds and other small creatures during the cold winter months.

SafeBee® Top Three:

1: Warm up and cool down your muscles before your gardening workout

2: Abide by the warnings on ladders and tools

3: Don’t underestimate the safety benefits of paying attention