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Health & Safety: Prepare your team for a safe spring season

March 29, 2022  By CCOHS


Thorough training should be provided to both new and returning employees. Photo credit: auremar/Adobe Stock

In some parts of the country, it may feel like spring is many months away. For turf and grounds managers, this time is critical for preparing for the busy season. As you get ready to mobilize your crew, here are a few important factors for consideration to ensure a safe spring season. 

Build your team. Be sure to address any staffing shortages well in advance of spring. Don’t assume that seasonal employees are returning – a lot of life happens in the off-season. And during the pandemic, there may be some hesitation to return. Address these concerns, be upfront about any changes to procedures, and communicate the efforts being made to keep the team safe at work. 

Another important question to consider is: how do you prioritize the health and safety of those carrying out this very physical work? What kind of feedback mechanisms are in place for those who may need additional support? Do you offer employee wellness programs that offer training on the importance of proper nutrition, hydration, and sleep?

Maintain the right tools for the job. Once you’ve got your team assembled, they’re going to need well-maintained tools and equipment. Having a mechanical issue or breakdown can affect deadlines in an instant, so make sure all servicing and maintenance are up-to-date, check maintenance logs and ensure all machinery and safety equipment is clean and in good working order. Proper care and a preventative maintenance schedule can help make sure all equipment is operating well throughout the season. Sharpen blades, calibrate spreaders, and stock up on seed, fertilizers and herbicides. 

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Provide thorough training for both new and returning employees on proper pre-operational checks, equipment operation, safe handling, use and storage of hazardous products, and how to properly clean and store tools. All workers should be provided with the appropriate protective equipment based on the workplace’s hazard assessment for their tasks. Think coveralls, high visibility safety apparel, gloves, safety glasses, head protection, masks and respirators, and hearing protection.

It’s good practice to have a central checklist outlining all the necessary tools and equipment for each season, preventative maintenance schedules, as well as the appropriate stock levels for tools, frequently changed parts, seeds, herbicides and fertilizers. 

Have a backup plan in place. It’s impossible to predict bad weather with perfect accuracy, but you can be sure Mother Nature will thwart your best-laid plans at least once or twice during the busy season. Establish an inclement weather procedure for when work needs to be called off. This could be due to lightning, heavy rain, extreme heat, or other conditions that would make it unsafe to continue working. Prepare for these interruptions by considering what kind of maintenance or preparation can happen indoors.  

Another possibility you should plan for is staff shortages. You should make sure there are enough workers to complete the required jobs safely, so be prepared to organize or rearrange the workload, so crews are not overwhelmed. Planning ahead by prioritizing tasks and not rushing work can help you maintain a safe work environment. Should an incident occur, it must be reported promptly, and the injured worker must receive medical attention.  

Keep in mind that many factors can contribute to an injury, including human and personnel factors. Make sure your team members are fit for work by checking in regularly. Fatigue, mental health, impairment, and physical health are all important to consider. Foster an environment where workers feel comfortable coming forward when they’re not well or need a day of rest. 

Hazards can have a big impact on safety. Aside from the risks associated with operating tools and machinery, team members should also be instructed on other hazards of the job and the controls in place to protect them, such as manual materials handling, working with hazardous products, extreme weather, dehydration, working alone, exposure to UV rays, animal waste, and possible allergic reactions to plants or insect bites or stings. Train employees on how to recognize the symptoms of West Nile virus, Lyme disease, Histoplasmosis or Hantavirus. 

The cornerstone of every great landscaping or recreation operation is a healthy and supported crew. Invest in the right equipment and training, demonstrate your commitment to the development and well-being of your team, and you’re sure to have your strongest, safest season yet. 


The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) promotes the total well being of workers in Canada by providing information, training, education, systems and solutions that support health and safety programs and injury and illness prevention.
www.ccohs.ca

 


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