by Bob Niklewicz PT MG.
As an Ergonomic Consultant, I have gone to businesses with many hand dexterity-dependent tasks such as construction sites, wineries, assembly and high-tech clean rooms. Almost without exception, there are hazards or situations that require gloves. Gloves protect workers from abrasions, chemicals, pathogens and thermal hazards. Being a gardener also falls into the jobs that require gloves.
Working in soil as well as in dirt, a person may come in contact with sinister stuff that is not visibly evident. For example, did you know that soil can contain tetanus, anthrax, staph aureus, e. coli, listeria, strep, botulism, fungi and animal deposits or remains. Granted these are not all common in everyone's soil, but they could be, so but why take a chance? The portals of entry for these undesirables include puncture wounds, abrasions, cuts, existing skin lesions, inhalation and digestion.
What kind of medium do we put our hands on when in the garden? Wet-muddy, dry-hard, rocks-gravel and thorny-woody stuff plus the risk from vibration generated by many things you hold that have a motor attached to them.
Luckily there are gloves for these environmental challenges. The gloves pictured are samples of the types of gloves available. I like different types of gloves for different tasks. I also like gloves slightly on the cheaper side, as I go through one or two pairs of any of the types I use each season. Below are some pictures of gloves that are out there and some notes about them.
For the wet-muddy areas there are rubberized or lined gloves that keep moisture away and will dry quickly. 1
Dry-Hard soil can be managed by dense material gloves made of leather to protect you from abrasions and sharp edges. Photo 2.
Delicate plants require delicate latex or nitrile gloves that give you dexterity yet provide a barrier to the soil. I also routinely use them as liners in the other gloves. They come in 5,7, & 9 mil thicknesses and different sizes. I use five or seven mil thickness the most, and buy them by the box. Photo 3.
Thorny or woody materials may require leather or Kevlar gauntlets. Although they are not 100% thorn proof, I have been saved from puncture wounds many times because of them. Photo 4.
Photo 5 is a real picture of a friend who was not wearing long gloves and was punctured by a rose thorn. The arm became infected, but fortunately the wound healed. What you see in the photo is the deep bruising during the healing process in the forearm.
If you do not have gauntlet gloves you can get leather wrap-arounds for your forearms that fit into standard leather gloves. Photo 6.
If you are handling chainsaws, lawn mowers, leaf blowers etc., the risk from vibration can damage nerves in your palms, so gloves that are padded are needed. Vibration trauma can cause numbness or even carpal tunnel symptoms. Photo 7
The only thing as bad as working without gloves is wearing a pair that does not fit. You can lose 20-40% of your grip strength by wearing bulking or poorly fitting gloves. If the gloves are too big, you also may lose dexterity and misjudge where the tips of your fingers are compared to the glove. This may end poorly by accidentally cutting the tip of the glove off.
Napa Master Gardeners are available to answer garden questions by email: email@example.com. or phone at 707-253-4143. Volunteers will get back to you after they research answers to your questions.
Visit our website: napamg.ucanr.edu to find answers to all of your horticultural questions.
Photo credits: Bob Niklewicz
Information links: UC Berkeley.edu https://greenthumbs.cedwvu.org/media/1165/ergonomic.pdf