Ergonomics done right.®
September 1st, 2011

The Ergonomic Gardener

Just because summer is at a close, don’t put away your shovel and rake quite yet.  Harvest has just begun and there is still a lot of work to do outside.  We’ve got the tips to make your gardening projects and yard work hurt a whole lot less.

Ergonomic Gardening Tips

  • To avoid lifting, rake leaves onto a canvas tarp.  When full, pull the tarp and unload the debris to the desired location.
  • Always use gloves (knee pads can be used to) to provide padding and to prevent cuts and scrapes.  Gloves should be form-fitting.  Thin gloves are preferred; too much padding will decrease hand strength, coordination and power grip.
  • Use ergonomic tools.  Just because the tool says “ergonomic” does not mean it is.
  • Pay attention to handle diameter, size and weight.  Telescopic and pistol-grip handles require less energy to perform work; a curved handle, like ones similar to Radius Garden’s hand trowel, provides more leverage with less wrist stress since it is designed to fit the natural curve of the hand.
  • Maintain tools by keeping them sharp and oiled.  A dull blade will require more effort and force and could lead to injury.
  • Elbows should be kept below heart level as much as possible.  The use of long-handed tools or taking periodic breaks to minimize such movements will keep your body in a comfortable position.
  • Avoid working with your thumbs pointing toward the floor.  This arm position “wings” your elbow out and reduces your applied strength while adding stress to the body.
  • Work with wrists in a neutral position – straight, in line with forearm, and with thumbs up.  Remember to hold objects with a light grasp or grip.
  • Avoid fine-motor repetitive movements such as pinching and pulling, these movements are often used with the finger and the thumb
  • Try to minimize your continuous extended reaches to fewer than 10 to 15 seconds. Take short breaks between segments to prevent injury and overexertion.
  • Minimize the time spent working with your head and neck in an extended position (looking up).  Take periodic breaks to avoid fatigue.

Now, go outside and get to work!

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