Keeping Your Landscaping Workers Safe
While the working conditions of landscapers and gardeners may seem harmless, they are still exposed to hazards that can cause serious injuries and lasting health problems. According to the CDC, since 2001, the number of injuries has declined, but the number of serious injuries has increased from 16% to 21% in 2017. As an employer, it is important to recognize that landscapers may encounter these occupational hazards and need to take safety precautions to protect them.
Accidents Involving Transportation
Landscaping companies often load and unload lawnmowers, leaf blowers, string trimmers, and mulch from trucks and trailers between work locations. Hand and foot injuries can occur when moving tools and machinery. Injuries can result from accidents involving trucks, trailers, or equipment or materials being loaded or unloaded into or out of trucks and trailers.
While you cannot control everything about road conditions as an employer, you can enforce safe driving policies and encourage safe driving habits. When documented safe driving standards are being met, it is easier to enforce them, and continuous training should be offered to drivers. Encourage your employees to drive safely so that it becomes an integral part of your company culture.
Being Struck by Objects
If workers use machinery for clearing areas, mowing, sawing, trimming trees or bushes, or digging, they may suffer injuries. Objects, equipment, or strikes can cause landscape workers to suffer these injuries. The most common causes of injury were overexertion and being struck by an object such as a falling tree limb or by a piece of equipment such as a lawnmower blade. A number of these accidents involved trees and tree parts, equipment, and landscaping materials falling on workers.
Have your workers wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when working with flying particles or falling objects to protect them against these hazards. To protect workers from falling debris, cordon off areas where overhead work will be performed. Workers should avoid areas where heavy machinery is being used. Machine operators should receive thorough training on how to operate the equipment.
Workers can fall from ladders without proper fall protection. Trimming and cutting trees from ladders and bucket trucks can put workers at risk for falling from great heights.
Every project should begin with a hazard analysis. Make sure trees and tree limbs are structurally sound before climbing or cutting them.
Fall protection equipment is necessary whenever working at heights. Your workers should be knowledgeable about how climbing ropes should be positioned and secured. If a worker must use a ladder, make sure you select the right ladder for the job, maintain three points of contact, remove the ladder from uneven ground, and face the ladder.
When digging in soil, coming in contact with overhead power lines and buried cables are the two most common causes of fatal and serious injuries. These injuries may also be caused by moving metal ladders or trimming trees. Tree service workers are most likely to die from electrocution according to the CDC.
If you are planning to dig any major holes, contact the local utilities so that they can locate underground power lines. You should exercise caution when using pole-type pruners or other raised equipment near overhead wires. Don’t trust the outlets at the customer’s location if electrical tools are used. Consider purchasing a portable GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) to ensure your safety.
Vibration from Equipment
Landscape professionals regularly drive lawnmowers or tractors for hours on end, doing everything from lawn trimming to transporting products. Working long hours can result in shoulder, neck, and back pain, impaired circulation in the legs, and spinal disc degeneration for machine operators. A low back injury is more likely to occur after lifting heavy objects. Operators should take frequent breaks and stretch to prevent muscle fatigue. The machine should have a strong suspension system and extra padding to reduce vibration.
High temperatures, both hot and cold, regardless of the season, can pose a risk to workers. Long-term exposure to the cold can result in hypothermia, frostbite, trench foot, and frostbite. Even experienced workers can suffer from heat-related illnesses if the temperature rises rapidly. You can get heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat rash from exposure to excessive heat.
When working in hot weather, it is essential to provide water, rest, and shade. Those who have not worked in hot environments will need to acclimatize to the heat. Encourage these workers to drink plenty of water, work shorter shifts, and take frequent breaks. As the weather gets cooler, make sure everyone is dressed well for the weather and stays warm.
Ensure Your Workers Stay Safe
To reduce the risks involved with landscaping, there are certain precautions that should be taken while dealing with heavy equipment, electrical hazards, and high altitudes. It is also important to ensure that a job site is fully ready for its operations. There should be no potential hazards that could possibly damage property or lead to accidents.