Gardening is a great way to get physical activity and beautify your neighborhood. However, you should protect yourself and take proper precautions.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), emergency rooms treat more than 400,000 gardening-related accidents each year. Follow these gardening safety tips to avoid injury, pain and discomfort:
1. Wear gloves when working outside
Wearing the proper gloves will not only reduce blistering, but will also protect your skin from fertilizers and pesticides that live in the soil. When exposed to soil, even the smallest cut can turn into a major hand infection. Leather gloves offer protection from thorny objects and poison ivy, as well as snake, rodent and insect bites, and other skin irritants in the garden. Gloves also prevent sun damage and fingernail damage.
2. Avoid prolonged repetitive motions
Unless you are accustomed to the activity, repetitive motions, such as digging, raking, trimming hedges, pruning bushes or planting bulbs, may cause skin, tendon or nerve irritation. Make sure your gardening activities are varied and tasks are rotated every 15 minutes with a brief rest in-between so that the same muscles are not used over and over again.
3. Watch for buried objects
If possible, remove objects from the work area before beginning the task so you do not cause damage to you or your tools. Use a hand shovel or rake rather than your hand for digging.
4. Use the right tools
Many tools are made with finger grips molded into the handle to provide better slip resistance. However, these “form-fitting” grooves only fit one size hand perfectly. People with larger hands will find that their fingers overlap the ridges, causing pain, soreness and calluses. Those with smaller hands will have to spread their fingers to match the grooves. Strength testing has shown that this spreading of the fingers significantly reduces grip strength, requiring more pressure to maintain control of the tool which puts more stress on your hand.
Avoid accidents by using tools for their intended purposes. When purchasing pruners, loppers or shears, look for brands featuring a safety lock, and always follow the manufacturers’ instructions for the tool. Keep sharp tools away from children at all times.
5. Use proper ergonomic posture
“Posture” refers not only to your whole body position, but also to the angle of your wrist while using hand tools. Grip strength is at its maximum when the wrist is in a relaxed or neutral position. Studies have shown that people lose up to 25% of their grip strength when their wrist is bent.
What to do in case of injury
If you cut your finger or hand while gardening, apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth. Visit the emergency room or a hand surgeon if:
- Continuous pressure does not stop the bleeding after 15 minutes
- You notice persistent numbness or tingling in the fingertip or have trouble moving the finger
- You are unsure of your tetanus immunization status
- You are unable to thoroughly cleanse the wound by rinsing with a mild soap and plenty of clean water
For more safety tips, visit www.HandCare.org.