by C.M. Mackenzie
Hammocks evoke images of summertime peace and lazy afternoons with a good book. There are many more styles of hammocks and swings now than in the past; you don't have to set up a hammock between two trees anymore if you don't want to. Many are instead used with hammock stands. Although some hammocks are built with safety in mind, there are still things you must pay attention to in order to keep a hammock safe. If used improperly, hammocks may pose a serious fall hazard or risk of strangulation.
Check every part of the hammock after removing it from the manufacturer's packaging. Assemble it exactly according to the directions. If you are missing a part or some fabric or rope is torn or frayed, do not use the hammock until replacing the damaged or missing parts.
Install the hammock at a safe height. This applies particularly to portable hammocks without a stand (the kind of hammocks that are hung from sturdy trees or poles). If it takes effort to climb up into the hammock, it is probably too high. In addition, double-check the tree or pole straps to make sure the hammock is tightly secured. If the hammock comes with a stand, place the stand on a sturdy, level surface. Fasten both ends of the hammock tightly and securely to the stand.
Ease your body onto the hammock. Do not climb on quickly or the momentum may propel you to the other side (and you may find yourself on the ground). Likewise, all hammocks have a maximum weight limit. Don't allow another person to join you on the hammock if this will exceed the weight limit, as the hammock may break.
Distribute your weight evenly over the hammock. This places less strain on the device. For this reason (and because you may lose your balance), don't stand on a hammock.
Store a hammock in a secure area (out of the reach of children) when you are finished using it for the day, even if you plan on using it again the next day. Storing the hammock in a dry, secure area prevents damage from weather (which could damage fabric or rope fibers over time) and accidents involving pets or children.
Check your hammock before each use to make sure it is in good working order; specifically check that wood or metal stands are not cracked, ropes, netting and fabric are in good repair and that all bolts are tight (if applicable).
Do not allow children to play or sleep unsupervised on hammocks of any type. Falls or strangulation (in the cords or netting) can happen in an instant.
Never use a hammock as a bed for a napping infant or young child.
Do not let anyone bounce or jump on a hammock.