The American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) recommends
gardeners take the proper precautions to prevent hand-related injuries
before digging or planting in the garden this spring.
According to the Consumer Product
Safety Commission (CPSC), emergency rooms treat more than 400,000
outdoor garden-tool-related accidents each year. With proper safety
techniques, you can stay away from the hospital and avoid becoming a
“While protection and safety is important in everyday life,
proper hand care is particularly important in the garden,” says
David M. Lichtman, MD, ASSH Vice President and chairman of the ASSH
public awareness committee.
“The key to keeping your hands safe and in good condition is
common sense,” says Lichtman.
“Just because you might be out relaxing in the garden
doesn’t mean you should throw safety precautions to the wind.
Before you start each task, simply ask yourself, ‘What can I do to
keep my hands safe?’”
Wear gloves when working outside. Wearing the
proper gloves will not only reduce blistering, but will also protect
your skin from fertilizers and pesticides as well as bacteria and fungus
which live in the soil. When exposed to soil, even the smallest cut or
lesion runs the risk of developing into a major hand infection. Leather
gloves offer protection from thorny objects; snake, rodent, and insect
bites; poison ivy; and other skin irritants in the garden. Gloves also
prevent sunburn and fingernail damage.
Avoid prolonged repetitive motions. Unless you are
preconditioned or 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
When digging, watch for buried objects. Sharp
objects and debris buried in the soil may cause tendon lacerations or
punctures. Use a hand shovel or rake rather than your hand, itself, for
Use the right tool for the right job. Avoid
accidents by using tools for their intended purposes. When purchasing
pruners, loppers, or shears, look for brands featuring a safety lock,
and keep sharp tools away from children at all times.
Use proper ergonomic posture. "Postures" refers
not only to your whole body position, but also to such things as 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. Testing has
shown that people lose up to 25% of their grip strength when their wrist
is bent (source: Fiskars).
Avoid products with form-fitting, contoured
handles. Many tools are made with finger grips molded into the
handle to provide better slip resistance. These "form-fitting" grooves,
however, only fit one size of 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.
Should you cut your finger or hand, bleeding from minor cuts will
often stop on their own by applying direct pressure to the wound with a
Visit an emergency room or a hand surgeon if:
Continuous pressure does not stop the bleeding after 15
You notice persistent numbness or tingling in the
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.
© 2006 American Society for Surgery of the Hand