Hand Surgeons Give Precautions against Garden-Related Injuries.

April 30, 2004 - 09:45

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), emergency rooms treat more than 400,000 outdoor garden-tool-related injuries each year. Now, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH) is warning gardeners to take the proper precautions necessary to prevent hand-related injuries before planting this spring.

"While protection and safety is important in everyday life, proper hand care is particularly important in the garden," says David M. Lichtman, vice president of ASSH and chairman of the association’s public-awareness committee. "The key to keeping your hands safe and in good condition is common sense…Before you start each task, simply ask yourself, ‘What can I do to keep my hands safe?’"

Lichtman offers the following advice to avoid hand injury:

  • When exposed to soil, even the smallest cut or lesion on the skin increases the risk of developing a major hand infection. Wearing the proper gloves when working outside will protect the skin from fertilizers and pesticides as well as bacteria and fungus that live in the soil. Leather gloves offer protection from thorny objects, rodents, insect bites, poison ivy and other skin irritants in the garden.
  • Prolonged, repetitive motions can cause skin, tendon or nerve irritation. Gardening activities should be varied, and tasks should be rotated every 15 minutes so the same muscles are not overused.
  • When digging, sharp objects and debris buried in the soil can cause tendon lacerations or punctures. Using a hand shovel or rake rather than the hand itself for digging can reduce the risk of coming into contact with sharp objects. Using the right tools for the right job could greatly reduce the risk of accidents.
  • Many tools are made with finger grips for better slip resistance. However, these form-fitting grooves only fit one size correctly. People with larger hands require their fingers to overlap, causing pain and soreness. People with smaller hands have to spread their fingers to match the grooves, resulting in the reduction of grip strength, which requires more pressure to maintain control of the tool. Testing has shown that people lose up to 25 percent of their grip strength when the wrist is bent, so gardeners should use the proper ergonomic pressure to avoid this.

For more information about ASSH, visit www.HandCare.org.

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