Protection against nature’s natural defences
Protection against nature’s natural defences
Hands are a prime target for aggressive vegetation
Sydney, Australia, October 2015 – Instances of injuries caused by hand-operated pruning tools prompted Botanic Gardens & Centennial Parklands in Sydney to review its hand protection program for its horticultural and landscape workers.
Simon Callaghan, Stores Officer for the organisation, said its horticulturalists had been using leather riggers’ gloves which did not provide appropriate cut protection, particularly when gloves became wet and soft as a result of workers handling moist foliage. Some workers had also been removing their leather gloves for tasks such as weeding due to lack of tactility.
“Workplace health and safety is a key priority for our staff. We actively promote and encourage the use of hand protection through our work method statements and any process that involves a risk of hand injury. We emphasise the wearing of gloves as part of our overall PPE policy”, Simon said.
Danger from sharp tools
“Our horticulturalists work with a variety of sharp hand tools which they use for pruning trees and shrubs. These tools, which include knives, saws, very sharp pruning saws and secateurs, are designed to cut through very tough and resilient vegetation. Unless hands are adequately protected, deep and serious cut injuries may be inflicted if tools should slip while in use.
“Everyday tasks carried out by horticulturalists present hand protection challenges. Cutting limbs, branches and dead vegetation involve considerable handling of material and offcuts, as does picking up and loading material for disposal into trailers or bins.
Some trees and shrubs can cause injury
“The structure of many plants can include of sharp protrusions which may cause injury to improperly protected hands. Vegetation that can injure hands includes palm branches and the very sharp foliage of plants with natural defences, such as found in cycads.
“While cut protection is the prime requirement, we were also looking for gloves that would allow horticulturalists to undertake weeding activities that required a high level of feel and dexterity and allowed free movement of hand and finger muscles throughout the working day.
“Some weeds such as Small-Leaf Spiderwort produce toxic sap when cut and may cause skin irritation to workers who have sensitive skin. Although not a prime requirement, it was considered a bonus if gloves possessed a robust protective coating that would minimize sap contact with skin. While the gloves we selected are not specifically rated for liquid resistance, we find that the coating on the palm and fingers of the gloves is sufficiently robust to prevent the risk of toxic reactions.
Landscapers need hand protection
“We also have a landscape team that is responsible for construction and repairs to rockery and retaining walls. This team wears gloves to prevent injury from scrapes and knocks from the sandstone that is commonly used for this type of construction.
“We trialed several different types of gloves over a period of a month or more and sought feedback from workers who had been issued with different samples. Our objective was to agree on a limited glove range that would provide protection and comfort needed across the daily activities encountered by all our workers who carry out manual tasks.
“Glove testing was initiated by our internal Workplace Health and Safety committee. Gloves were issued to staff who used several types and completed a survey that indicated a preference for three types of Ansell gloves. The guidance we receive from our supplier in regard to the safety markings and coding on the glove was extremely useful as it told us the protective limits designed into the glove, subject to on-the-job testing.
Result of testing on the job
“Our staff’s collected opinion was that the preferred general purpose glove to provide protection, comfort and dexterity needed for general work was the Ansell HyFlex® 11-840 glove. Not only providing good cut protection, it also allowed sufficient dexterity to still carry out weeding tasks.
“We noticed a definite increase in work efficiency of people wearing these gloves and we also observed that our staff tended to leave these gloves on longer.
“For situations more prone to injury from sharp foliage, we agreed that the Ansell HyFlex 11-630 glove and a style 11-638 variant helped our work by extending cuff to provide better forearm protection when our people are reaching in and about branches and foliage.
“We are pleased that since implementing use of the Ansell gloves we have all but eliminated the occurrence of hand cut injuries to date,” Simon concluded.
About The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust
The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust is a statutory body established under the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust Act 1980. It is responsible for the management and stewardship of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, the Domain; the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan and the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah.
The Board of the Trust reports directly to the Minister for Environment and Heritage and has responsibility for the all Trust assets and programs. Staff are employed by the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage. In 2016 the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust will be 200 years old. It is the oldest botanic garden in Australia, one of this country’s earliest European landscapes.
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