A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Keven Moore: A symbol of relaxation, hammocks can prove to be dangerous if not properly used

Hammocks are synonymous with summer leisure, relaxation and to some retirement.

They are a great way to relax in backyards, beaches or while camping in the woods, but what if I told you that a handful of people died every year while resting in a hammock?

It’s true.

Like with anything else, if you don’t use a hammock properly it can be extremely dangerous. On Aug. 1, 2017 a Northern Kentucky girl, age 15, was sitting on a hammock at a friends’s house and was killed when a tree collapsed and toppled over on her, crushing her to death.

The Fort Thomas teenager was relaxing with her friend when the accident occurred. Luckily, her friend was not seriously injured. News reports did not did not determine the cause, but I suspect that the tree was dead and the added weight caused it to fall over.

Hammocks have been around for nearly a 1,000 years and are defined as sling made of fabric, rope, or netting, suspended between two points, and used for swinging, sleeping or resting. It normally consists of one or more cloth panels, or a woven network of twine or thin rope stretched with ropes between two firm anchor points such as trees or posts.

Hammocks were developed by native inhabitants of Central and South America for sleeping. They were later used aboard ships by sailors to enable comfort and maximize available space, and by explorers or soldiers traveling in wooded regions to keep them off the ground and away from insects and poisonous snakes.

Hammocks have also been employed on spacecraft to utilize available space when not sleeping or resting. During the Apollo program, the Lunar Module was equipped with hammocks for the commander and module pilot to sleep in between moonwalks.

Today, they are more popular than ever with college-age millennials and outdoor enthusiasts.

A 2015 report showed sales of hammocks increased a whopping 30 percent to $53.8 million compared with 2014, according to the market research firm NPD Group Inc., which found that overall sales have doubled during that time.

Websites like Amazon, L.L. Bean, Moosejaw and Wayfair are climbing on board the trend by marketing new designs in cool materials.
Despite the lack of any current updated accident data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the law of probability tells me that with the increase in sales, the number of accidents and fatalities would also be on the rise.

However rare incidents like the one in Fort Thomas may be, accidents occur with enough frequency that the public needs to become more aware of the risk factors of using a hammock improperly.

Unfortunately, the internet is full of tragic stories involving hammocks as people have been either severely injured or killed, leaving families reeling and devastated.

In an effort to avoid such a tragedy, here are some helpful safety tips to remember when using a hammock:

• Follow Safety Guidelines – Always read the user guidelines and follow the instructions. These guidelines are recommended by the manufacturers and retailers not just for your safety; following them will also extend the life of the hammock.

• Inspect Prior to Each Use – Inspect your hammock before you use it. Remember that the hammock is only as good as its weakest link.

• Hanging Distance – It is necessary to hang your hammock properly. This means that the hanging points for each end should be within the recommended distance prescribed by the manufacturer. If the hammock is stretched too far, it will increase the likelihood that tipping will occur. Likewise, if the hammock is not stretched far enough, it will sag and you may hit the ground when you sit in it.

• Chose Only Sturdy Trees – Never secure a hammock to a dead tree. Remember not all trees are alike, and you should try to locate two hard woods with a deep root base that will safely hold the intended load.

• Use Only Strong Posts – The hammock should never be fastened to an object that has the potential to move. If hanging from a post, be sure it is at least 6 inches in diameter and that at least 1/3 of it is sunk into the ground, preferably anchored with concrete. Brick posts should be avoided.

• Fasten Correctly – Much care should be given to make sure that the hammock is properly fastened to the structures so that it will not come loose when you get in.

• Not for Kids – Children should not be allowed to play on a hammock while unattended. While hammocks provide a fun means of relaxation for children, they also present a certain degree of danger if they aren’t supervised. Children can become entangled in hammock strings resulting in serious injuries. Hammocks can become quite unsteady at times and kids may not have the balance or coordination to enter or exit without falling.

• Don’t Try To Repair A Damaged Hammock – When a hammock is damaged, throw it away.

• Hang Hammocks At A Safe Level – Hang the hammock no more than 18 inches above the ground. Remember the higher you are the harder the fall.

• Clear Debris – Remove any debris, like rocks limbs, from beneath your hammock so that if you do fall it would be less likely to cause an injury.

• Don’t Jump from A Hammock – Sit sideways and then swing your feet in.

• Obey the Weight Limit – Check the weight limit associated with your hammock. It can usually be found on the strap.

• Bring Inside When Not In Use – UV rays and the weather can slowly cause your hammock to deteriorate over time. It’s generally a good idea to bring the hammock inside when you are not using it.

Be Safe My Friends.


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

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  1. Macca says:

    I suspect that you don’t actually use a hammock regularly yourself… This is a pretty ridiculous story…

  2. Julie Akyol says:

    I think a more important consideration is to check the hanging hardware. Many are hung with carabiners, and some are sold with carabiners that are not rated to hold the load that is getting into the hammock. If the carabiner says the load is 75 pounds, and there are 2 carabiners, one on each end, it is not 150 pounds that can now be held. It is still 75 pounds. I see them sold with bad hardware for the load. People should know to replace with hardware rated for climbing, for example. And loads should be geared for greater than needed. Think of a child running up to jump in the hammock with mom or dad or sibling – the force applied can cause equipment failure including collapse.

  3. Julie Akyol says:

    Also to be mentioned: check above where the hammock is hung – loose branches, dead branches, etc. are called widow-makers for a reason….they sometimes fall and could kill the occupant.

  4. Karen Murray says:

    Typical example of panic-induced information about something that happens (albeit, sadly) probably as often as death from lightning strike.

  5. Lynda Rea says:

    Two sisters were killed in Ohio recently when the hammock they were in pulled over a brick pillar. I started searching online and found many reports of similar fatal accidents. It may be time for more public education and perhaps even legislation related to hammock safety.

  6. I heartily impressed by your blog and learn more from your article. Thank you so much for sharing with us.

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