Spring is just around the corner, which means it’s almost time to trade the salt and snow shovels for mowers and string trimmers. Each year, nearly 80,000 Americans require hospital treatment from injuries caused by basic landscaping equipment. Whether you’re responsible for public grounds, parks, sports fields, golf courses or residential landscapes, don’t let spring fever catch your employees off guard. Here are four hazards to be mindful of while working outdoors this spring.
Misuse of lawn care equipment. The leading cause of injuries in landscaping stem from the misuse of lawn care equipment, such as power push mowers. Bypassing safety devices, failing to wear protective clothing, wearing slippery shoes, or failing to remove debris from the area can all lead to injury. Furthermore, these common injuries can lead to infection due to the unsanitary state of the working environment and equipment. Make sure that you never bypass safety devices, and always wear close-fitting clothes and closed-toed shoes while operating equipment.
Also, don’t neglect to give your lawn equipment a spring tune-up. Cleaning parts, removing gunk or debris, and making sure that everything is operating correctly is a great way to cut down on potential hazards from faulty equipment. While doing your tune-up, be sure to follow your owner’s manual or take your equipment to a professional.
Pesticide hazards. Pesticides can cause a wide variety of health issues; depending on the product, individual, and level of exposure. Small levels of exposure can lead to workers having minor symptoms, such as an allergic reaction, while prolonged exposure can lead to more severe symptoms, such as chemical burns, unconsciousness, and in some cases death. No matter how common the chemical is, workers should always check the label and be familiar with what steps to take should they be exposed to any potentially harmful chemicals.
Heat stress and safety. With all their work taking place outdoors, it is no surprise that landscapers often encounter problems with heat. Working in a hot environment puts stress on the body’s cooling system, and long hours in the sun can cause heat stress as well as increase the risk of skin cancer. Along with medical problems, an employee’s risk of other injuries also increases due to sweaty palms, fogged-up glasses, and burns from heated metal.
Remember: water is crucial when working in the heat. The rate of water intake must equal the rate of water loss by perspiration to keep the body temperature normal and prevent heat-related injuries. Be sure to remind employees to drink plenty of water when it is hot.
Motor vehicle hazards. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of fatalities for landscapers. These numbers include motor collisions that occur during travel between job sites, as well as struck-by incidents. When working near highways and roads, all employees should remember to wear high-visibility colors to increase their chances of being seen by drivers. Likewise, it is highly important to stress safe driving practices to all employees who spend any amount of time behind the wheel. Keeping both eyes on the road and following general safe driving practices are great ways to keep yourself, and others, safe while traveling.