Safety in the Garden

Some of the simplest lawn and garden tasks can be extremely dangerous. Here are some simple ways you can protect yourself while tackling all sorts of gardening chores:

  • The safest shoes for gardening are those that protect the entire foot. The best boots are those with a steel toe, perhaps even a steel shank to protect the bottom of the  foot from various hazards and   provide comfort and safety while shoveling. For applying chemicals, rubber boots offer the most protection. They prevent the absorption of most chemicals. Any chemical dust or residue that  sticks to the boots can be rinsed off  easily with a hose. Sandals are fine if you're planting, harvesting vegetables, or just performing routine garden maintenance.
  • When applying chemicals, it's best to wear long sleeves and long pants; don't forget to wear rubber gloves and boots. Wash clothes after dusting or spraying to get rid of any chemical residue. Also rinse the gloves and boots.
  • Kneepads offer both comfort and   protection, especially when you have a lot of planting or weeding to do. They are good for anything that requires being on your knees.
  • Unless you want rough callused hands, gloves are a must. They protect hands from cuts, splinters, blisters, and burns. There are many different gloves on the market made out of all types of materials; however, leather is good because it's flexible and rugged.
  • The ears also need protection. Power equipment is noisy, and that noise can damage hearing. Basic earplugs can prevent hearing loss when you're operating a mower, blower or other noisy contraption. Professionals use more effective ear protection devices, which look like headphones.
  • Inexpensive plastic goggles will go a long way toward protecting the eyes from a number of different hazards. Reach for them every time you tackle a task such as mowing, blowing, weed whacking and pruning that could send foreign objects flying into your eyes. If you wear eyeglasses, look for goggles that fit comfortably over them.
  • When performing tasks that create a lot of dust, an inexpensive dust mask will protect the lungs and nasal passages reasonably well. When applying garden chemicals in dust or liquid form, however, dust masks don't offer much protection. Masks are available that contain cartridges to filter out virtually every harmful particle or droplet, and the filters are replaceable. These types of masks are expensive, but a bargain compared to the cost of a trip  to the emergency room or doctor.
  • Make sure you have the right tools. Every tool you use should be the right size for you. For example, a rake or hoe should be long enough that you can keep your back straight and, with knees slightly bent, reach out in a broad sweeping motion. Try to alternate raking with your right and left hands to reduce back strain. A sharp shovel with the proper handle shape and length will cut the time and effort required to complete a task.
  • Other garden safety tips: lift heavy objects properly using your  knees, not your back; avoid dusting or spraying on windy days; avoid heights; drink plenty of water and take rest breaks.

Return to the Safety Resource Center