Safety First is the Beauty in Landscaping
The safety and health team at USF Safety Florida knows that when it comes to jobsite safety, no amount of advanced equipment technology or design can replace safe work practices. I’ve seen it firsthand: When businesses pursue safety as earnestly as productivity and quality, long-term zero-incident performance follows.
For landscapers, work activities and tasks change seasonally, but operating hand and power tools and exposure to weather, insects and critters lasts year-long. Workers in this industry should know and apply safe work practices to avoid cuts, scrapes, bruises, punctures, rashes and more serious injuries that may be encountered outdoors.
OSHA is fully aware of the hazard potential in this industry, which is why they enacted a Regional Emphasis Program to reduce fatalities for our area, Region IV (AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN). From 1997 through 2003, OSHA investigated 304 work-related fatalities in the landscape and horticultural services industry, of which 97 fatalities occurred in Region IV. Sadly many of these fatalities happened here in Florida. The accidents involved among other things: Workers being struck by falling trees and limbs in addition to motorized equipment, falls from trees and ladders, caught in chippers, and electrical shock while working near power lines.
The following safety tips will help landscape workers avoid or minimize potential injuries and illnesses when performing work tasks:
Prepare: Stretch muscles every day before working. Furthermore, know your physical limitations and weather conditions prior to working. Clothing should be conducive to weather. It also can be a shield from the elements. For example, long sleeves and pants protect arms and legs from insect bites, poisonous plants, sun, scrapes and scratches. Also wear insect repellant and sunscreen to protect exposed areas of skin. And don’t forget the importance of water and fluids to maintain adequate hydration. Do not attempt to perform any activities when the work environment is not suited to you.
Power Tools: Motorized equipment such as mowers, trimmers, and tillers with rotating and cutting parts can cause serious injuries, including amputations. Therefore, it is important to understand the piece being used. Read instructions and receive proper training on each item’s use, maintenance and care. Also, inspect equipment prior to its use to ensure guards and safety devices work properly. Never by-pass guard features. Furthermore, be sure to keep hands, feet, hair and clothing away from rotating parts.
Hand tools: Items such as rakes, shovels and hedge clippers should be properly maintained and inspected before each use. Pay attention to the task being performed and use the right tool for the job. To reduce ergonomic injuries, choose a tool that fits your hand properly and allows you to work with a firm and straight grip. Also, use proper lifting techniques to move debris. Rotate your tasks throughout the day and take frequent breaks in a shady area every 30 minutes to avoid fatigue.
PPE: Use proper personal protective equipment and clothing on the job. Work boots (steel toes) protect feet from cutting blades, heavy equipment and landscape materials. Gloves protect hands from splinters, throngs, cuts, blisters and punctures from rough landscaping materials, plants and debris. Safety glasses or face shields protect the eyes and face from flying objects and chemicals. Ear plugs or muffs protect workers from noise exposure. Chaps should be worn when using a chain saw. A high visibility colored vest makes workers more obvious to nearby traffic and your coworkers. Layers of clothing help regulate heat and cold exposure as seasons and conditions change. Landscape workers should be trained in heat and cold stress in order to recognize signs and symptoms.
First Aid: Each jobsite should have a first aid kit available in the event of minor injuries. Also, each landscape crew should have at least one certified CPR/First Aid Responder on-site, if working in a rural or isolated area.
To learn more about OSHA’s standards affecting the landscaping and horticultural services industry, click here. If your company needs assistance with developing an injury and illness prevention program or would like to receive a free and confidential on-site safety and health worksite analysis, contact us at www.safetyflorida.usf.edu. We’ll help you work smart and work safe.
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