Workplace Safety Series Landscaping
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Workplace Safety Series: Landscaping | Safety | Pie Insurance

Accidents can happen anywhere, expecially while landscaping. Here are tips to help you and your employees know how to better keep the workplace safe.
Workplace Safety Series: Landscaping | Safety | Pie Insurance

Groundskeepers and other landscaping workers are at risk of injury from a variety of potential hazards—including exposure to noise and chemicals, and hazards due to lifting, machinery, weather, and construction.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs provides general guidance for implementing a health and safety program. These programs help businesses:

  • Prevent workplace injuries and illnesses
  • Improve compliance with laws and regulations
  • Reduce costs, including reductions in workers’ compensation premiums
  • Engage workers
  • Enhance their social responsibility goals
  • Increase productivity and enhance overall business operations

Why safety matters for landscapers

For every dollar spent on a workers’ comp claim, $5 is spent on indirect costs, like lost productivity, hiring and retraining staff, and replacing or repairing damaged equipment. The most common injuries experienced by landscaping workers are:

  • Cuts and Amputations
  • Electrical shocks or burns
  • Ergonomic strain
  • Heat and cold stress
  • Muscle strain
  • Collision by motor vehicles
  • Exposure to extreme noise
  • Exposure to pesticides and chemicals
  • Slips, trips, and falls

Workplace safety tips for landscaping company owners

By implementing proper safety techniques, you can help reduce the number of workers’ comp claims made by your employees—and may be able to reduce your overall costs. Be sure that all employees, even part-time help and trainees, are well trained in safety procedures.

Here are some tips to help keep your landscaping workers safe:

  • Adequately train workers on the health and safety issues applicable in their workplaces
  • If required, only allow workers who are qualified or certified complete certain tasks
  • Keep records of workplace injuries and illnesses
  • Make sure workers are trained in treating bee and other insect stings
  • Provide medical exams when required by OSHA regulations and provide workers access to medical and exposure records
  • Set work-rest schedules according to temperature conditions, how strenuous the work is, and how familiar the worker is to the workload
  • Provide personal protective equipment (PPE), like goggles, gloves, and earplugs
  • Keep tools sharp and in good working order to help protect landscapers from repetitive stress injuries
  • Label containers of hazardous substances with the chemical name of the material and hazard warnings
  • Keep a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) related to each of the chemicals used by your company
  • Provide a written hazard communication program to employees that includes a list of all of the hazardous materials at the worksite and an explanation of how you will comply with OSHA’s standards for each
  • Train workers who will be exposed to dangerous chemicals in a language they understand (this training should include the names and locations of hazardous chemicals at the worksite, the procedures that you have developed to protect workers from the chemicals, and ways to measure hazardous chemicals at the worksite)
  • Provide equipment that is ergonomically designed, like backpack leaf blowers
  • Consider purchasing quieter mowers, blowers, and other machines to help reduce employee noise fatigue
  • Allow workers enough time to work safely
  • Rotate employees’ tasks, especially those that require using the same motion over and over
  • Consider using mechanical equipment to complete repetitive employee tasks
  • Consider providing or requiring slip-resistant footwear to employees, since it can reduce as much as 75 percent of work-related slips and falls
  • Provide enough ladders and footstools of the right height for the job site
  • Provide training in safe lifting methods
  • Keep cords and plugs in good condition

Perhaps most importantly, require that all employee injuries—no matter how small—are reported immediately.

Safety tips for landscapers and groundskeepers

Train and remind your employees to:

  • Take a few moments during their shifts to stretch or take breaks, especially if they spend a lot of time carrying loads, bending, reaching, or repeating the same motions
  • Rest periodically during strenuous jobs, such as digging or sawing
  • Identify and remove harmful or noxious plants such as poison ivy
  • Use insect repellent or protective clothing when needed
  • Take care in areas with wild animals or unfriendly domestic ones
  • Avoid touching stray or dead animals (and encourage them to contact an animal control agency for removal)
  • Make sure emergency telephone numbers are clearly posted or readily available
  • Know the location of the first aid kit and how to use its contents
  • Carry a bee sting kit if there’s a chance of getting stung, especially if employees may be allergic to insect stings
  • Wear respiratory protection if they will be cleaning up waste, leaves, or dust that could contain mouse or bird droppings
  • Understand the risks a geographic prevalence of Lyme disease and the West Nile virus
  • Be aware of the weather conditions expected for the day and plan accordingly (they should have a plan for where to go if severe weather hits)
  • Wash their hands thoroughly after using pesticides, particularly before eating, using the restroom, or changing tasks
  • Not carry more than they can handle and understand that objects weighing more than 50 pounds require a two-person lift
  • Use their leg muscles instead of back muscles when lifting or lowering heavy objects
  • Wear high-visibility colors
  • Wear long pants, sturdy shoes, gloves, and ear and eye protection
  • Dress for the weather
  • Avoid any loose clothing or jewelry that could get caught in equipment
  • Use knee pads to reduce knee injuries when kneeling
  • Use a kneeler or stool when working at low levels
  • Use long-handled trimmers for areas that are hard to reach
  • Understand that power tools—including tillers, mowers, trenchers, and blowers—can cause severe injuries if they malfunction or are used incorrectly (they should be sure to read the safety manual before using a new tool for the first time)
  • Before attempting to fix or clear a jam from a power tool or mowing equipment, ensure that the power supply is turned off and all the blades have stopped moving
  • Never stand on the top rung of a ladder and never overreach or lean too far to one side when standing on a ladder
  • Never use a step ladder as a straight ladder (step ladders should also be fully open with spreaders locked in place)
  • Use a respirator if there’s a chance they will inhale harmful dust, fumes, vapors, or gases
  • Move their feet when changing direction between tasks, instead of twisting from the waist.
  • Keep their hands, face, hair, clothing, and jewelry away from moving machine parts

A note about herbicides

When exposed to hazardous chemicals, use the correct equipment to protect employees from the chemicals. Personal protective equipment includes gloves, safety goggles, and masks.

Many herbicides may have harmful health effects. Follow the manufacturer’s directions when using these products.

How to prepare for unexpected injuries

While you can’t plan for every type of emergency, every workplace should at least have a plan for dealing with a variety of scenarios, including falls from high heights, machine-related injuries, and other medical emergencies.

All workers should be trained on what’s in the plan, and what they should do specifically in the case of an emergency. The plan should explicitly detail how workers should report injuries and how to get help promptly by:

  • Explaining how employees should contact medical personnel if needed
  • Including the location of first-aid kits, gloves, and other protective equipment available for staff (lacerations and puncture wounds should be immediately treated and disinfected to prevent infection)
  • Ensuring workers know how to report an incident where there is exposure to blood

How to incentivize landscaping safety

Accidents can happen anywhere. Remind employees why safety training is important and provide continual reminders and retraining.

To help encourage your landscapers to make safety a priority at work, consider offering prizes or awards for those who follow the safety program or hit time milestones while remaining injury-free. Prizes like lottery scratch-offs, coffee gift cards, or 30 minutes of extra paid-time-off can help motivate your team.

Thanks for reading! Please note that this content is intended for educational purposes only. As best practices change regularly, you should refer to your trusted advisor for specific counsel. If you’re a small business owner, learn more about workplace safety or check your workers’ comp rate in 3 minutes.