From using chemicals to operating powerful machinery, landscaping and horticultural service workers are constantly at risk of injuring themselves and the people around them while on the job. In an industry in which danger frequently rears its ugly head, clearly communicating safety measures is a must.
An overarching goal of all landscape managers is to make sure their employees make it home safely to their families at the end of each work day. Most will acknowledge the importance of safety in their business operations, but many rarely devote the necessary time or resources needed to drive a successful plan.
While there is no universal solution to effectively communicating the details and benefits of safety for all landscape companies, successful businesses create personalized ways to reach their team.
At Quality Lawn, Landscape & Fence in Casstown, Ohio, President John Ryman gathers his team at the start of every day. This gives Ryman the opportunity to send his employees out to their prospective tasks in an organized and focused manner with a daily reminder of the importance of being safe.
Ryman conducts weekly safety tailgate meetings first thing every Monday morning. The company creates a calendar for the safety meetings and every employee has a designated week where he or she is responsible for providing the safety tip.
The employee in charge of the Monday meeting picks and researches a topic that is relevant to discuss — either because it relates to what he or she does or to the specific season of work they are in.
A relevant topic covered during the summer months is the importance of remembering to wear sunscreen. His employees also see constant visual reminders from safety signage and posters hanging in the shop. These illustrate what protective gear to wear and how to operate equipment.
“We tell our employees that we want everybody to work as efficiently as possible, but we never want anyone to work so hastily that they put themselves in an unsafe position,” says Ryman.
Dyle MacGregor, owner of Green Landscaping in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, photocopies articles about safety and puts them in with employee’s paychecks. These articles are hole punched so employees can add them to their own company handbooks and keep them for future reference.
MacGregor also conducts regular 15-to-20-minute tailgate sessions — similar to pep talks, but with a safety emphasis. He gears these sessions to the time of year as well.
“We try to keep it timely so that it lands on the right set of ears,” says MacGregor.
MacGregor has noticed a correlation between complacency and injuries. The employee who gets hurt is likely to be the one who always says that they will never get injured, he says. For this reason, it is critical to keep safety communication consistent even with your more experienced workers.
Ed Snyder, owner of Greenleaf Services in Linville, North Carolina, starts every day cleaning the shop and all the trucks with his staff. This prevents any questions about where things should be placed, as tape indicates where every tool and piece of equipment is supposed to be kept. To him, organization is paramount with safety because it puts focus on what a person is doing.
Following the morning cleaning, Snyder gathers all the field employees together in a circle — also marked off by tape on the shop floor — and everyone makes a safety pledge for the day. It includes a focus on what they’re going to do that day, make a commitment to end it safely and get back home to their families. After a final group cheer, everyone heads off to go about their day.
These practices may appeal to you or you may be considering a different method based on the personalities in your group. Free resources to help enforce your safety measures are available online so there is no excuse to oversee this crucial principle. Visit the National Association for Landscape Professionals or Occupational Safety and Health Administration for more information.