Gardening writer Tim Foster at Western Daily Press recently provided readers with some excellent garden safety tips, which I’ll share in today’s post along with other garden-tool related safety suggestions.
Foster suggest taking the following precautions when using rakes, shears, and forks.
Rakes: Place prongs down with the rake’s handle at 45 degrees through the D handle of a spade or fork stuck into the ground. No spade or fork? The next best thing is to lie it flat on the ground with the prongs down in the soil you are preparing.
Secateurs: The simple rule with secateurs is to keep your free hand where you can see it. Slightly strange advice, but with one hand hidden around the back of a plant, a quick snip could take care of a rose stem and also a tendon, or an entire digit.
Shears: A grass hook or a sickle – a lethal blade on a short handle – is better replaced with shears. Shears have to be operated with both hands and the blades are in the middle, held away from the body; a grass hook is operated with one hand and the blade may easily become embedded in your shin.
Forks: Forks are up there with the best of maiming implements. Don’t launch the fork into/at the soil; position it carefully where you want it and then use your leg muscles rather than arms to push it in. You could also try the precautionary principle of wearing steel-toed boots.
The University of Missouri Extension offers these additional gardening safety tips:
- Poor posture can lead to pain, fatigue, and strains. Don’t sit slouched over while you garden and don’t rest your weight on one leg or arm while you work.
- Avoid staying in one position too long. Switch tasks often, going from bending jobs like picking beans and reaching jobs like trimming a vine. Bend, stretch, and move around often to avoid stiffness.
- Repetitive tasks can lead to injury; trying to hoe just one more row or pull just a few more weeds—can cause inflammation, tenderness, and pain in joints.
- Use the strongest and largest joints and muscles for the job. Use you legs, not your back, when spading or lifting. Use your forearm and elbow, not your wrist or fingers, when troweling. Use your palms to push levers or tools, not your fingers.
- Use splints, supports, and assistive devices whenever possible, but ONLY after consulting with your physician or therapist.
- Follow and read all manufacturers’ labels for safety tips and instructions.
- Careless use of garden tools, or using at tasks, for which they were not designed, is asking for trouble.
- When using any garden tool – and especially power tools – be sure that you understand its operation thoroughly.
- Keep blades clean and sharp, not only on knives and pruning shears, but on shovels, trowels, and hoes as well. Dull tools cause fatigue.
- Save your fingers. Tools can pinch or cut them and the repetitive use of the finger, such as in pressing a squeeze-trigger spray bottle, can cause damage to tendons and joints. Alternate finger-intensive activity with less demanding hand tasks or switch from finger to finger as you work.
- Watch hands and wrists, which are particularly susceptible to tendinitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. Repeated grip-and-release movements, like those used in operating pruning shears, are a prime cause of hand and wrist discomfort. Switch from pruning to less hand-intensive work frequently or alternate which hand you use.
- Carrying heavy objects such as watering containers can cause hand and wrist injury, especially if handles bite into flesh and cut off circulation. Make sure all handles and carrying straps are thick enough to provide you with a comfortable grip. Add comfortable, non-slip padding wherever necessary.