Green Guides features a rotating panel of LCOs sharing their real-world experience on how to build and grow a successful lawn care business.

Photo courtesy of Bob Mann

Personal protective equipment for lawn care operators can be a very dry subject. While it may not be exciting, it is essential for separating you from the innate hazards of your job. In this article, I’d like to explore some features and benefits that the proper PPE can have for you.

While you will seldom encounter pesticide label requirements to wear head protection, you should still protect yourself from the damaging effects of the sun. The American Cancer Society estimates that one person in 40 will develop skin cancer sometime in their life. It is the most common cancer, even more so if you work outdoors. Simply wearing a hat, especially one that has a large brim like a Panama hat, will help protect your head from the sun’s rays.

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of having a prill of fertilizer land in your eye, you know full well how important a good set of safety glasses can be. The most commonly used broadleaf herbicide will cause permanent damage if it comes in contact with your eyes, but if I were to name the piece of PPE that is ignored most often, eye protection would top it. This may be because when people think of eye protection they immediately think of the oversized plastic glasses they used in high school chemistry lab. A quick catalog search of suppliers will give you a number of very comfortable and stylish glasses that will stay put on your face and not fog in inclement weather.

Many pesticide labels require that you wear both long-sleeved shirts and long pants when mixing, loading and applying. Unfortunately, there is no exception on the label saying you can ignore this requirement when it’s hot and humid outside. This is one of those instances in which using a uniform service makes sense. They can provide lightweight fabrics specifically designed for use outdoors in the summertime and keep them clean as well.

Your hands are the parts of your body that are in constant contact with whatever pesticide you are handling. However, you just can’t wear any kind of gloves that you want. Most labels will specify an unlined glove made of a product called nitrile. A common mistake is to use a box of disposable nitrile mechanic’s gloves. The problem with this is that the nitrile is too thin to properly protect your hands. Plus, they tend to rip very easily. The proper choice is to use a full gauntlet nitrile glove that is at least 14-mils thick. For more specific information, consult the label of the specific product you are applying.

“A common mistake is to use a box of disposable nitrile mechanics gloves.”

A lawn specialist who is servicing a residential route can walk between 18 and 20 miles in a day. The standard issue PPE footwear in lawn care is the 14-inch rubber slip-on boot. I can think of nothing worse to put on your feet. First, these boots were never designed for walking long distances and do not have the proper support your foot needs. Second, the fact that they are 14 inches high means that the top of the boot will be constantly coming into contact with your shin and calf, causing very uncomfortable abrasions.

Since lawn specialists walk such long distances, weight is the enemy. A steel toe or shank is not necessary and should be avoided. As for me, after trying every possible kind of footwear imaginable, I finally settled on a waterproof but breathable mid-weight hiking boot that supports my feet combined with a rubber overshoe to keep pesticides out.

The bottom line in choosing what PPE you buy should be picking out products that you will actually use on a daily basis. PPE that you leave in the truck can’t do a good job of protecting you.

Bob Mann is the corporate agronomist for Lawn Dawg.