How I Do It: Inside a Gold Safety Award Winner’s Operations - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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How I Do It: Inside a Gold Safety Award Winner’s Operations

At Duke’s Landscape Management, safety has always been a number one priority for owner Eric Cross.

Based in Hackettstown, New Jersey, Duke’s provides commercial landscape maintenance, commercial snow and ice management, landscape design/build and holiday display services. Last year the company earned several NALP Safety Recognition Awards: a gold level – Overall Safety Achievement award, as well as awards for no vehicle accidents, no injuries or illnesses and no days away from work.

“Safety is very important to our company and is embedded in our culture,” says Danielle Mungiello, sales and marketing specialist for Duke’s. “Our commitment to our employees starts with ensuring they are trained in each facet of their job.”

New hires at Duke’s are assigned a mentor for the first few weeks and receive on-the-job training. Additionally, employees are assigned Greenius modules that are web-based on their daily job functions. Mungiello says their training and focus on safety has led to a more proactive approach to injury prevention.  

“This formal training teaches our employees about the hazards associated with equipment and the correct way to complete their work to minimize the risk to themselves and others on the property, which has resulted with fewer incidents, fewer insurance claims and lower insurance premiums,” Mungiello says. “We are very proud of our .81 MOD rating.”

Creating a Safety Culture

Duke’s has a strong commitment to their employees’ well-being. Mungiello says safety is part of their daily culture.

“They’re like family to us, without them we wouldn’t be able to have a successful business,” Mungiello says.

They also go beyond just their employees’ safety but also consider the safety of pedestrians, vehicles and buildings on the grounds.

Photo: Duke’s Landscape Management

“Each day our employees come to work dressed a Duke’s uniform and necessary PPE, safety vests, protective ear (coverings) and eyeglasses,” Mungiello says. “We ensure all of our equipment is in well operating condition. Our onsite mechanic ensures all of our equipment is in top running condition. While our crew members are working, they take notice of their surroundings. If they see a pedestrian, they shut down equipment till they pass.”

Duke’s crews are well-trained on how to properly use their equipment and avoid premature wear and tear. Employees complete material safety data sheets (MSDS) to ensure they have necessary items like traffic cones, PPE, a spill kit, a first aid kit, and an operational cell phone. Every day truck inspection sheets are filled out and each driver ensures their truck and trailer are in working condition.

“These inspections set the tone – each employee knows what is expected of them,” Mungiello says. “Safety is a part of their job.”

Key Safety Practices

Aside from training employees properly, Duke’s fosters an environment of open communication so that if there is ever an accident, employees know they can come forward without fear of being reprimanded. If an accident does occur, they address it with all the other crew members and foremen to ensure they know how to prevent it from happening again.

“If we see an issue with safety our managers address the situation with more training and/or modifying equipment to make the job easier,” Mungiello says.

For instance, Duke’s is investing in dustless masonry saws for their landscape construction division because the silica dust poses a serious health threat for their team.

“We care too much about the well-being of our team to expose them to that kind of hazard, which is why we’ve always been strict about proper safety gear when cutting pavers: face mask and protective goggles,” she says. “This saw helps us keep them safer and healthier.”  

Cross himself goes into the field and spot-checks jobsites to make sure crews are wearing the proper PPE.

Each quarter, Duke’s celebrates their teams who achieve their safety standards with the Extra Mile Program. They are rewarded with a monetary bonus and a barbecue. Mungiello says it also means a lot to their team when they earn NALP Safety Recognition Awards.

“Our crews enjoy celebrating each other successes,” she says.

She says for other companies wanting to become safer you have to take control as your safety culture will not create itself.

The 2021 Safety Recognition Awards are now open. Enter your company by May 3. Click here to enter.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.