Safety Resource Library

Nursery Ergonomics

Nursery Ergonomics

Ergonomics is the study of human capabilities in relation to work demands. Ignoring ergonomic principles in work place design or administration of work practices presents risk of injury.
Below are risk factors that may contribute to injury:


  • Ideally working postures would be anatomically neutral.
  • Unfortunately, tasks tend to put us in awkward postures.
  • Awkward postures over time can increase the risk of injury.
  • The postures pictured should be avoided through workstation design or minimized through work practices and exposure time.

Additional postures that may contribute to risk of injury include slouching, twisting, and leaning or reaching too far.

Arms Overhead
Picture 6
Neck Bent

Kneeling or Squatting
Picture 12
Wrists Bent
Picture 1
Back Bent


Excessive force applied to body parts can increase risk of injury. Forceful activities to avoid include using hands or knees as a hammer, pinch grip, excessive pushing/pulling/squeezing, lifting heavy or awkward loads.

Picture 2
Dull or Inadequate Pruners
Picture 1
Lifting Heavy Objects


Repetitive work is when the same muscle groups are required to move too much. Additionally, when the same muscle groups maintain prolonged posture with too little movement is considered repetitive.

No Rest

Adequate rest from awkward postures, repetition and force is necessary to reduce the risk of injury is increased. Each hour worked with the above mentioned risk factors increases the risk of injury. However, switching tasks to use different muscle groups provides rest to the first muscle group.

Listen to your body

Consider yourself a workplace athlete. As you begin to use muscle groups that you haven’t before, they may feel sore or tired. Once acclimated, they will work and feel just fine. Consider stretching prior to and throughout the workday to keep the elasticity in your muscles and tendons, which prevents injury. Past your acclimation period if you suspect symptoms of injury, report immediately to your supervisor. Below are signs and symptoms of injury as a result of the risk factors mentioned above:

  • Muscle Fatigue
  • Local Redness or Swelling
  • Sharp Pain
  • Tingling/Numbness
  • Stiffness
  • Burning or Stabbing Sensations

These symptoms could be signs of various conditions. By reporting them early, your supervisor is able to adjust your tasks and workload to prevent further injury. Your early reporting will also make your supervisor aware of potential areas that can be improved. If you do not listen to your body, the symptoms could lead to permanent damage requiring surgery or other methods of intervention.

What can I do to reduce the risk of injury?

The best ideas come from those who do the work. Ideally the risk factors are reduced or eliminated through design and engineering. Often re-designing a task is cost justifiable as it also increases productivity. If the task cannot be redesigned, tools and equipment may be helpful to reduce the risk of injury. Lastly, you may need to limit your exposure by alternating tasks throughout your workday if the risk factors cannot be minimized or eliminated

Potential solutions for reducing risk factors in other nursery settings are presented below. These solutions may help you brainstorm ideas to improve your workplace for all employees.


Risk Factor

Potential Solution

Lifting and Carrying Containers or bending to right tipped containers

Bent Back and Force

  • Store plants on surface rather than ground to avoid stooping
  • Design and use lifting tool, prevents unsafe lifting practices and supports neutral wrist.
  • Stabilize containers so that they don’t tip.

Pruning Woody Plants

Repetition and Force

  • Ensure tool has spring so worker doesn’t have to open after each use.
  • Ensure handles are coated for grip and handles are long enough so the end of the handle doesn’t press into workers palm
  • Ensure pruners are kept sharp; or
  • Use electric pruner which eliminates the repetition and force

Manual Harvest

Kneeling and Stooping

  • Design a harvest cart for more comfort and reduce knee injury.

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