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Fact Sheet

  • To protect your back, use an erect body posture (not hunched over) when using long-handled gardening tools. Bend at the knees and hips to lift and hold objects, and keep one arm under the object while carrying. While working at ground level, avoid a rounded or hunched spine.
  • To prevent shoulder discomfort, work below shoulder level whenever possible. If it's necessary to work above shoulder level, do so for very short periods of time. Alternate or use both arms whenever possible.
  • Keep elbows partially bent, especially when doing resistive activities requiring elbow strength; do not rest body weight on elbows. Whenever possible, work with the forearm in a neutral position and avoid twisting it back and forth on a repetitive basis.
  • Work with the wrist in a neutral position by avoiding extremes of motion (up, down and sideways). Hold objects with a light grasp or pinch, avoiding a tight, sustained position.
There are positive and negative aspects regarding wearing gloves. They protect the skin from abrasions and blisters and minimize the effects of vibration, but can decrease hand strength and be difficult to wear while operating equipment. To get the best use of gloves:
  • Consider wearing thin gloves to alleviate problems.
  • Be sure gloves cover the smallest area of the hand possible without being restrictive.
  • Gloves should be made of material appropriate for the task, such as working with chemicals as opposed to working with the soil. Consider having more than one type of glove, based on the activity being performed.
  • Use lightweight tools.
  • Handles should be cylindrical in shape and contoured to provide equal pressure along the entire arch of the palm.RolandHandles should be made of compressed rubber to minimize friction.
  • Handle length makes a difference: shorter handles provide greater leverage control, while longer handles provide greater power and are best for jobs that require full body motion, such as hoeing.
  • Avoid tools that require awkward body positioning.
  • Clean, well-maintained garden tools are less likely to cause strain injury.
Electrical Equipment
  • If using a tiller or mower, always remove stones, tree trunks or large roots from the area before you begin tilling so that objects won't fly up and hit you.
  • Stop the machine immediately and shut down if you hit an object. Inspect the machine and repair any damage before restarting.
  • Clear the area of people and pets.
  • Dress properly for the job by wearing substantial shoes, long pants and close-fitting clothes.
  • Read the operator's manual to find out where controls are and what they do, and always check for additional safety instructions. Know how to stop the machine quickly. Do not remove or disable guards or other safety devices.
  • Fill your gasoline tank only while the engine is cold. If you need to refuel before completing a job, turn off the machine and allow the engine to cool.
Other Equipment
General equipment that will make your garden tasks easier includes the following.
  • Padded kneeling benches with side rails or knee pads to protect your knees from cuts and grazes
  • Hoses on reels
  • Tool bucket garden seats
  • Lightweight carts on wheels
The most important gardening tool is your body. With proper body mechanics, well-designed gardening tools and frequent rest breaks, you should remain a healthy gardener.

Indiana Hand Center
Outdoor Power Equipment Institute

Contact the South Dakota Safety Council at
or phone 605-361-7785 or 1-800-952-5539.