Nursery workers plant, cultivate, and harvest trees, shrubs, or plants at garden centers, greenhouses, and agricultural fields. The proper tools, work behaviors, and training for nursery workers can keep you safe.

Planting, weeding, and watering can be physically demanding. Get ergonomics training to learn safe work postures and techniques. When you plant, thin, or weed, bring the plants to waist height by using nursery tables or carts. To tend plants at ground level, use long-handled tools. If you kneel on the ground, use kneepads or garden pads.

Choose planting and cultivating tools with handles that fit the task, your height, and your hand. Tools need comfortable, soft grips that will not slip out of your hand or press into your flesh. Use the correct size cutting tool and blade to trim or prune. Keep cutting tools sharp. Know where your hands are before you make a cut.

Hauling heavy potted plants can put a strain on your back. If you must lift a pot or plant manually, lift with your legs while keeping your back straight. Use lifting handles or a thick plastic edge around the pot to give you a good grip instead of trying to “pinch” a thin plastic edge with your thumb and forefinger.

Use mechanical lifting devices such as wheelbarrows, dollies, and carts to move pots and materials (topsoil, mulch, fertilizers, etc.) around. Wheels should be large enough to roll over the uneven terrain in a garden center or field.

You may operate all-terrain vehicles, tractors, and forklifts to move supplies and plants. Get training in the equipment you operate. Inspect and maintain the equipment. Know the equipment rated capacity so you do not overload it. Do not hitch a ride or allow riders unless there is a seat and seatbelt available.

Know the properties and hazards of the chemicals you use by getting training and consulting the safety data sheets (SDS). Insecticides, fungicides, pesticides, and fertilizers can be harmful if you do not wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Consult the product label and/or SDS to choose appropriate gloves, coveralls, safety glasses, and respirator, if needed.

Working outdoors or year-round tending plants exposes you to the weather. Get training in heat and cold illness prevention. Wear layers of clothing appropriate to the season. Practice sun safety with long sleeves, a hat, and sunscreen. Use insect repellent and keep a first aid kit handy to treat bites and stings.